Industrial Revolution
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Industrial Revolution brings New Problems and Solutions

We remember how Rip Van Winkle, the famous character in Irving’s Sketch Book, fell asleep for 20 years. When poor old Rip stumbled back to his village, he was startled by the changes which he found. The people he talked with and the places he visited were strange. His former home was in ruins and his friends and nagging wife were dead. What was more, he discovered that a war had taken place and America was now an independent nation.

If some imaginary native of Great Britain had returned to his home after slumbering from 1750 to 1850, he would truly have rubbed his eyes with as much amazement as did Rip Van Winkle. Ways of living in Britain had changed more in this hundred-year period than in the ten preceding centuries. Science had increased man’s control over the forces of nature and was pointing the way to better health. Invention had created new machines from which flowed a steadily growing stream of goods. Men seemed to be standing on the threshold of higher standards of living for all; better food, clothing, shelter, more comforts and greater security. Yet the Industrial Revolution was far from finished. Each advance in science and invention led to further progress.

industrial revolution
Industrial growth in the Western World brought changed ways of living.

Our imaginary Englishman in 1850 would not have found all people enjoying a more abundant living. Along with its benefits, the Industrial Revolution created grave problems. It brought misery instead of happiness to thousands of workers in the factories and to their families. The Industrial Revolution affected ways of living during the 1800’s and the common people sought a greater share in its benefits. In short, you will find answers to the following questions:

1. How did the Industrial Revolution affect ways of living?

2. What efforts were made to solve workers’ problems?

3. How were reforms peaceably achieved in Great Britain and the United States?

4. How did socialism get started among discontented people in Europe?

5. How did literature and the other arts reflect social changes?

1750 A.D. – 1914 A.D.

1. How Did the Industrial Revolution Affect Ways of living?

As new machines were invented and businessmen put them to work, ways of living were changed both for better and for worse. To be sure, goods were produced in greater abundance, as well as more easily and cheaply. On the other hand, the age of machines brought a host of perplexing problems which affected workers, owners and governments. Machines came into wide use in Great Britain earlier than in other countries, we shall describe their effects on ways of living chiefly in that country. Often we shall compare conditions in Britain with those in other countries.

The use of machines brought the factory system. The new machines were big, expensive and efficient. Against them the weaver in his country cottage could not successfully compete. He had to go to work where the machines were set up. So in place of the old domestic system of handicraft there arose the new factory system. Large numbers of people worked under one roof, though you should remember that early factories were small compared to many present-day manufacturing plants.

Cities and towns grew. The new demand for coal, both for heat and as a source of power, caused mining towns to spring up. Factories were sometimes located near a supply of coal, sometimes near a millstream, depending on whether machines were to be operated by steam engines or water power. Where there were factories, towns grew. Usually these mill towns were located in flat country near a river or harbour, so that manufactured goods could be transported easily. Such communities were usually crowded and ugly because they expanded too swiftly to be carefully laid out.

Cities and towns grew most rapidly in the northern part of England because the moist air there was good for cotton thread (which is brittle when dry) and because there were large deposits of coal near at hand for heating factory boilers. Thus the city of Manchester became the world’s centre of cotton manufacture.

The growth of manufacturing in turn caused trade to increase. As business concerns multiplied and there were more clerks and shopkeepers, the urban communities (cities and towns) in which they were located also grew.

Population grew and moved townward. More goods, improved methods of farming and progress in medical science permitted the British population to grow rapidly. In 1760 when the Industrial Revolution was just beginning, there were about five and a half million people in England. By 1900 the population had increased to about thirty-two million. In 1700 two out of three people earning a living in England were farmers or farm labourers. By 1900 the number had dropped to one in nine. You can see by these figures that nearly all the increase of population centered in the cities.

England was not the only country where population increased and where people left the country districts to work in city factories and shops. These changes took place, although more slowly, in France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries. In America they started later but took place very rapidly. When the United States won its independence, it contained only a handful of cities and most of these were small. By 1900, four out of every ten persons lived in towns of 2500 or more and three cities had more than a million inhabitants.

The townward movement brought new problems. Those who moved to early factory towns or cities faced living conditions quite unlike those to which they were accustomed. The typical farmer in England or on the European continent spent all his life in one place. Very likely he lived in the same little cottage where he had been born. Simple though his home might be, it was surrounded by open spaces and fresh country air. He could look up from his work in the fields and see the church where he had been baptized and where he had been married. His parents and grandparents were buried in the cemetery nearby. In short, the farmer’s interests were largely limited to his own village and his daily living was subject to few changes.

Conditions in British cities and towns in the 1800’s were quite different. Factory owners might live in fine houses on the outskirts of a town, but factory workers lived in slum areas over which hung a dark cloud of smoke from the factory chimneys. There were long rows of little houses, often built back to back so that there were no rear windows. Into these dark and unsanitary dwellings one or more large families were crowded. When more houses were built, the main thought, as one writer put it, was “not to promote the health and comfort of the occupants, but how many cottages could be built upon the smallest space of ground and at the least possible cost.”

The new factory worker, moreover, moved from job to job, sometimes from town to town. He was constantly meeting new people and hearing new things. He was therefore more ready than the farmer to change old habits and customs.

Town workers had to depend on others. Factory workers suffered some loss of independence. The typical farmer in those days, though he laboured from sunup to sundown, could take care of most of his own needs. He grew much if not all of his food, cut the wood he needed for fuel and drew water from a nearby well or spring. He built and repaired his home. In short, he had an all-round job in which he did a great many different kinds of things for himself and his family.

The factory worker, on the other hand, spent his time largely at one task. With his wages he bought food, clothing, fuel and housing for his family. He and his wife and children were therefore dependent on his job for the bare necessities of living; losing it could mean hunger and misery. Moreover, he was dependent on the local government for many important services. Bit by bit, during the 1800’s, British towns and cities found it necessary to provide water supplies, sewerage systems, fire and police protection, street lights, schools and hospitals. These and other services the country villager in 1800 would never have expected.

Even national governments had to increase their powers and duties. Until the 1800’s the chief responsibilities of a government had been to protect people from foreign enemies and criminals, settle disputes over property, coin money and collect taxes. With the growth of factories and cities, however, national governments began to take steps to guard the health and welfare of the people.

industrial revolution
Rows of crowded, monotonous houses accommodated great numbers of workers attracted to factory jobs during the Industrial Revolution. These houses were built in Birmingham, which became a leading industrial centre in England.

Foreign trade affected British workers. British workers became less independent in another sense, too. When manufacturing began to boom, the British had to import raw materials and food from other countries. Cotton came from the United States, wheat from Canada, lumber from Finland, butter and bacon from Denmark, mutton from Australia. In return the British exported coal, cotton cloth, steel tools and other manufactured articles. Of course the British had had a prosperous trade before this time, but now it was greatly increased. Great Britain had to depend on other countries for food for its workers and for raw materials to keep its machines humming. Any breakdown in the flow of imports and exports would affect the workingman’s job and living. A war, a revolution, or a business panic in some other part of the world would have effects in Great Britain also.

Working conditions in early factories were bad. The average factory worker in Great Britain probably did not realize how foreign trade affected his well being. He was very conscious of the conditions under which he worked. Early British factories were poorly lit and ventilated. The hours were long — often from sunrise to sunset, six days a week. So many workers flooded to the mill towns and cities, factory owners could employ all they needed at low wages. Since little attention was paid to safety measures, accidents were frequent. Woe betide the workman who was injured — the accident was considered his fault, so he had to pay for whatever medical care he got and another worker took his place.

Factory work was also monotonous and tiring. Workers had to stand for long hours beside swift turning machines and perform routine tasks. They had become mere tenders of machines, in marked contrast to the craftsmen of the Middle Ages who made an article from start to finish. A medieval craftsman may have been a poor man, but he took pride in his work. He made the best glove, shoe, or suit of armour that he could. He really created something. On the other hand, it is only fair to remember that while machines robbed factory workers of this pride in their work, machines also relieved them of much drudgery.

A painting of 1814 shows a British coal miner of the period. The steam engine in the background hauled wagon-loads of coal to the nearby manufacturing town of Leeds.

Child labour was a serious problem. The Industrial Revolution greatly increased the number of child workers. In America today we know that laws require boys and girls to remain in school until they reach a certain age. Other laws limit hours of labour and regulate working conditions for young people. Very few such laws existed anywhere in the early 1800’s.

In Britain in those days child labor was nothing new. Children were sent to the fields to help with the farm work when they were little more than toddlers. As a rule, however, they worked for their family or for a neighbour. It was quite a different matter when large numbers of children were gathered in factories under hard-driving bosses. Children of five, six, or seven often worked twelve hours or more a day. A report made in 1842 by the British Children’s Employment Commission gives this description of a factory:

It is a frightful place, turn which way you will. There is a constant hammering roar of wheels, so that you could not possibly hear any warning voice. . . . Little boys and girls are seen here at work at . . . machines (all acting by steam power) with their fingers in constant danger of being punched off once every second, while at the same time they have their heads between two whirling wheels a few inches distant from each ear.

Children could perform simple tasks and could be hired for low pay, many manufacturers preferred to employ them. As a result, a father sometimes would be discharged and his small daughter hired in his place, so that he had to live in idleness on a child’s wages. Conditions were even worse in the coal mines, where women and children instead of animals pulled carts through the narrow tunnels.

Small children worked long hours over fast-moving machinery in factories of the early 1800’s. This is a scene in a wallpaper factory.

The introduction of new machines caused unemployment. The craftsmen who made goods by hand were naturally disturbed by the invention of machines. In fact, rioters destroyed some of the earliest spinning and weaving machines. If a single machine could do what 40 men had done before, some argued, one man could run the machine and the other 39 would have no jobs and no food. Workers today sometimes argue the same way against the use of improved machines.

Such reasoning is not really sound. In the long run more people have been employed since machines came in. As goods have become more plentiful and cheaper, more people have been able to buy them. Furthermore, new inventions have created whole new industries. For example, the invention of the automobile created millions of jobs, not only in the factories which make cars, but also for service-station attendants, salesmen, road builders and many others, but you could hardly expect the man who made carriages or buggy whips and who lost his job when automobiles became popular to be impressed by this argument. Neither were the old-fashioned hand-loom workers. These unhappy workmen found that the best of them could not compete with new machines and their trade gradually died out during the 1800’s. As each new invention appeared, other workers faced the prospect of at least temporary loss of work.

Business depressions also caused unemployment. Another and more serious kind of unemployment also appeared in the 1800’s. After all a labour-saving machine usually benefits more people than it injures. You would laugh at a proposal to throw all typewriters away merely because more clerks would have to be employed if all business letters were still written with quill pens. The kind of unemployment that comes with a business slump benefits no one and hurts everybody.

What causes hard times? This question is too complicated to answer briefly. The problem, however, is tied up with the quantity of goods factories produce and people can buy. If Mr. A. owns a shop in a small village and makes shoes just for the people who live there, he has a good idea of how many pairs of shoes he can sell in a year. Since he does the work largely himself, he can speed up or slow down his work without much trouble, but a big factory may market its goods all over the world, so it is very difficult to guess in advance how much can be sold.

If factories make too much steel or cloth, or if mines produce too much coal, or if farmers raise more wheat or cotton than can be sold at a profit, they have to cut down on their production. Some of the steel plants close, or the mines shut down for a few months, or the farmer lets his hired hands go. Soon there may be thousands of people walking the streets looking for work.

In the last 150 years there have been several severe business slumps, or depressions, not only in Great Britain but in other countries too. Banks closed their doors, businesses shut down, workers lost their jobs. In the midst of plenty they lacked sufficient food, clothing and housing.

Significant changes came about in England as a result of the Industrial Revolution (1) What urban centres (areas with over 250 people per square mile) existed in England about 1700? Notice the many urban centres scattered over the island 200 years later. (2) Around what cities had great industrial areas grown up by 1900?

The Industrial Revolution created a new class of workers. To sum up, the shift from home industry to manufacturing by machines created a new group of workers who faced difficult problems. They were far less independent than farmers and skilled craftsmen. They were crowded together in the dingy houses of rapidly growing cities. Working conditions were bad, especially for children. Unemployment, due either to new inventions or to the ups and downs of business, was a constant problem.

These conditions affected workers, though with some differences, in all countries to which the Industrial Revolution spread. In America factory conditions were less hard on workers than in Great Britain. Workers in a new and growing country had more opportunities to better themselves. Even so, in the early 1800’s pay was low, workers often laboured twelve to fifteen hours a day and large numbers of women and children tended the new machines.

The Industrial Revolution created a group of powerful owners. The new factory owners possessed great power; they owned the machines, they set the conditions of work, they could hire or fire workers at will. Moreover, the new factories employed many people, so there was not the close relation between workers and employers that had existed in the days of the guilds. These new factory owners, together with bankers and merchants, termed a powerful middle-class in most industrialized countries.

New forms of ownership developed. When plants were small and machinery simple, one or two men could put up enough money to start a factory. As the Industrial Revolution progressed, opportunities to make high profits tempted owners to expand. Increasingly expensive machinery made expansion difficult. Consequently, just as joint stock companies had been formed earlier to finance colonizing expeditions, corporations were formed to meet the needs of industry.

Corporations aided the growth of business and industry. A corporation is owned by the stockholders. The management is left largely to a board of directors and the corporation’s officers are chosen by the directors. The profits are divided among the stockholders according to the number of shares each owns. The corporation offers two important advantages over a partnership. Through the sale of stock, larger sums of money can be raised to start or expand a business. Moreover, business risks are spread among a large number of people. If a business under a single owner fails, he is responsible for all its debts. If a corporation fails, a shareholder can lose no more than the money be invested in the stock.

Huge business organizations developed. By 1850 there were about 1000 corporations in England. During the late 1800’s corporations grew rapidly both in number and in size, especially in America and Britain.

Big businesses greatly improved manufacturing methods. They could operate more cheaply than small companies because they bought, manufactured and sold on a larger scale. When these savings were passed on in lower prices, the public benefited. Unfortunately this did not always take place.

Industrial development has flourished under capitalism. A modern industrial nation is characterized by huge factories, complex machines, large-scale use of natural resources and great networks of communication and transportation. Ownership and control of such means of production and distribution can be in the hands of the government, as in Soviet Russia, or largely in the hands of individual owners, as in America.

Capitalism or free enterprise is a system under which land, machinery and equipment, for the most part, are owned by individuals. Even in the case of a giant corporation such as General Motors, this is true, for the owners are its stockholders. Under the capitalist system people are free to earn an income from (1) money loaned at interest, (2) dividends paid on shares of stock, (3) profits from a farm or business, (4) rent from land or machinery leased to others, (5) royalties on inventions and books. Under the free enterprise system Americans have achieved the highest standard of living in the world.

2. What Efforts were made to Solve Workers’ Problems during the Industrial Revolution?

The evils which came with the Industrial Revolution chiefly affected the workers in the factories. Machines increased the quantity of goods, but workers often did not have enough money to buy the goods that filled the shop windows. When times were good there were plenty of jobs, but during business depressions jobs were few. Workers had nothing to live on but their wages, loss of a job meant starvation or going to the “poorhouse.” In novels by Charles Reade or Dr Charles Dickens we can read why Englishmen dreaded the poorhouse almost as much as they dreaded hunger.

Early labour meeting

Workers sought means to improve their condition. To be sure, the rapid growth of industry offered an opportunity for some poor men to become rich. Many a factory owner had started life as a labourer, but success of this kind depended upon hard work, unusual ability and good fortune. The road from “rags to riches” was easier in America, where a new and thinly settled country offered tremendous opportunities. In Great Britain or on the European continent, the average factory worker could no more expect to become an owner than an average peasant could expect to become a landlord.

On the other hand, what could a worker do to improve his pay and working conditions if he was not able to rise to the owner class? The worker needed his job more than the factory owner needed his services, so the worker had little bargaining power. It was easy enough to fire a worker and hire someone else in his place During the 1800’s various remedies were proposed, some by workers themselves, some by employers, some by governments.

Workingmen formed made unions to protect their interests. Although a single worker might have little chance to wring better conditions from an employer, what if a whole group of workers should join together? By “collective bargaining” the group of workers could present a common set of demands for better working conditions or higher wages and the employer could not fire the whole group as easily as he could one or two men.

The desire for collective bargaining led workers to form trade unions. Membership in the early unions was usually limited to workers of a particular trade. For example, among the organizations formed by British workers in the earlier 1800s were the Journeymen Steam Engine Workers, the Friendly Society of Carpenters and Joiners and the Northumberland and Durham Colliers (coal miners) Union.

Workers’ unions grew in spite of opposition. In the early 1800’s labour unions had a hard time. Many owners distrusted them and opposed them fiercely. In both Great Britain and France unions were called “conspiracies to raise wages” and were forbidden by law. Englishmen were actually convicted as criminals and sent to Australia for organizing unions of farm labourers. Only gradually did unions win the right to exist. In Great Britain, for example, unions, though permitted since the 1820’s, were not fully recognized until 1871, while in France a person could not lawfully join a union until 1884. In America, labour unions did not become firmly established until after 1860. The first permanently successful country-wide labour organization was the American Federation of Labour, founded in 1886.

Everywhere the unions worked for better working and living conditions, higher pay, shorter hours, greater safety measures and public education for workers’ children. Sometimes the unions were successful, sometimes they failed and often there were bitter strikes which caused hardship for strikers, damage to property and loss of goods or services for the public.

Workers formed co-operatives. One way in which workers tried to improve conditions was by forming co-operatives. In 1844 a little group of poor weavers in Rochdale, England banded together to set up a grocery store. Each member contributed what money he could to a common fund. This fund was then used to buy food supplies which were in turn sold to members. The profits, if any, were handed back to the members.

Other co-operative groups were formed on the plan of the Rochdale pioneers. For the most part these have been groups of buyers or consumers who have run stores for their own benefit. There have been only a few cases where the workers or producers have run their own factories. In farming, however, we find a somewhat different situation. Dairy farmers in Denmark, Sweden, the United States and many other countries have been successful in forming groups to market their goods, but the dream held by certain idealists that all industry would come to be run cooperatively by voluntary groups of workers has not worked out.

Workingmen sought to win better conditions through the passage of laws. In this photograph English workers parade in London with banners displaying the names of early labour unions.

Workers looked for a greater share in the government. Workers did not seek improved conditions solely through the formation of labour unions and co-operatives. In the early 1800’s, even in those countries where there were elected assemblies, the right to vote was limited to men of wealth and the “upper” classes. Workingmen believed that if they could win the right to vote, they might be able to get laws passed to improve their condition. As a result the workers in various European countries joined democratic movements. French workingmen, took a prominent part in the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. The English labourers obtained a voice in their government. In this effort to secure the vote, the working classes were aided by reform-minded people of the middle and upper classes. Nevertheless, the road toward democracy was slow and often discouraging.

Governments began to pass laws affecting workers. In the early 1800’s it was generally believed that governments should leave business and industry alone. This had been the view of Adam Smith, a Scottish thinker and writer who, in 1776, published a book entitled ‘The Wealth of Nations’. Adam Smith was the first to make an important study of wealth and how it is produced and distributed. For this reason he is considered one of the founders of the study called economics. Business would prosper best, Smith argued, if it were allowed to follow natural laws. Therefore, there should not be government regulation of wages, hours or working conditions. Most governments followed this policy of laissez faire (two French words meaning “leave alone”). As the 1800’s continued, however, representatives of the workers and others who favoured reforms succeeded in getting laws passed to benefit workingmen and their families.

This classroom in an English school of the early 1800’s looks quite different from classrooms of today. What differences can you point out?

Governments took steps to protect children. In Great Britain, for example, the evils of child labour became so clear that the government felt it had to take action. During the mid-1800’s Parliament passed laws forbidding small Children to work in mines and factories. Other laws limited working hours for “young persons” in their teens. Factory inspectors were appointed to see that these laws were carried out. In time other countries, including the United States, followed Great Britain’s example in trying to improve conditions for children in factories.

Public education began to spread. One reason for limiting child labour was that it interfered with education. Prussia and certain other German states had founded state schools before the Machine Age. Until the 1800’s, however, most governments left education to private groups. Schooling was a luxury that only well-to-do people could afford. The rich were taught by private tutors or in expensive schools, while the middle classes sent their sons to small private schools. The poor either depended on charity schools or let their children go without book learning. In many European countries over half the people could not read or write.

As cities grew and the right to vote was extended, the need for widespread education became more urgent. One by one, European countries adopted public school systems and passed laws making school attendance compulsory. The free school system in the United States had started earlier and developed more rapidly. New England had town schools in the 1600’s. Yet even in America high-school education was considered a privilege for the few until the early 1900’s.

Working conditions improved. During the latter 1800’s some forward-looking governments took steps to protect men and women workers as well as children. They established inspection of mines and factories. Partly as a result of laws and partly because of the efforts of labour unions, hours of labour dropped from fourteen to twelve, from twelve to ten and later, from ten to eight. Laws were passed which required safer working conditions. In the towns and cities, too, a start was made at clearing out dirty and disease-ridden slums and at building better houses.

A century ago American workers spent 72 hours a week at their jobs and enjoyed only 40 hours of leisure. Today, this ratio has been reversed by a gradual shortening of working hours.

Government programs provided greater security for workers. Accident, illness and old age are serious worries to most workers. Strangely enough, the first broad program to insure workers against these problems was introduced in Germany by Bismarck. Bismarck at heart was no social reformer. What he wished was to head off any discontent among German working men which might lead to revolution. In the 1880’s Bismarck had laws passed which provided old age pensions and government insurance against illness and accident. The German system was later copied by other European countries, some of which added insurance against unemployment to their programs for workers.

During the early 1900’s government programs to give workers greater security were greatly expanded. America’s social security system has grown out of such developments. Modem governments have also undertaken to provide work for the unemployed in times of general depression. Government programs providing workers with greater security have been opposed for three reasons: (1) They increase the cost of government. (2) They involve government regulation of business. (3) Some people believe that too much help from government makes people indifferent and lazy. The problem today, however, is not whether to have any measures for workers’ security but how far governments should go in providing them.

3. How were Reforms Peaceably Achieved in Great Britain and the United States?

When widespread changes are needed, they sometimes come about suddenly and with violence. The French Revolution and the Russian Revolution of 1917 were violent outbursts against existing conditions. Both resulted in sudden changes not only in form of government but in ways of living.

In Great Britain during the 1800’s, however, events took a different course. To be sure, conditions among the working class were bad and other reforms were long overdue, but unlike France in 1789 and Russia in 1917, the British followed a program of gradual change. Hand-in-hand with social reform went political changes which brought about a growth in democracy. How was it that these changes were accomplished in a gradual, lawful and orderly manner?

Englishmen already possessed much freedom. By the year 1800 Englishmen possessed many rights for which the people of other countries were still struggling. Parliament, which included the House of Lords and the elected House of Commons, had limited the king’s power. Englishmen had acquired important individual liberties — freedom of speech and press and trial by jury. Although there was an established or official church, the Church of England, no one had to belong to it. Representative government and personal liberties made life pleasanter in Great Britain than in many countries. Englishmen, therefore, did not share the feeling so common in other European countries that the only way to gain a privilege was to use force. They were accustomed to getting what they wanted by discussion and in other peaceful ways. This opened the way for orderly reforms.

Restless Girl. Wealthy and well-educated, young Florence slipped away from her family on pleasure trips, to study hospitals. She wanted to do something useful in life, but nursing was considered to be no job for a lady. At last, the suffering of British soldiers in the Crimean War gave her an opportunity.
Volunteer. Florence led a small group of nuns and other volunteers to the British base hospital in Turkey. There she found thousands of dirty, neglected soldiers, dying of wounds and disease. Many army officers opposed change, but Florence fought to get supplies for the hospital and to improve sanitation and diet.
“Lady with the Lamp.” Making her endless rounds, almost without rest, Florence finally brought order and comfort to the vast hospital. She became a heroine to the soldiers and the British public. Although her own health was broken by overwork, after the war she went on campaigning for health reforms.
Industrial revolution
Founder of Modern Nursing. For years, cabinet ministers and officials came to the famous invalid for advice. Florence also wrote books and reports on army medicine and supervised her own school for nurses. From this work, her ideas spread around the world and made hospital care on honoured, scientific profession.

Many improvements were still needed. In spite of the advantages already won, British laws in the late 1700’s and 1800’s badly needed bringing up to date.

1. British laws were unnecessarily harsh. You have probably heard the old saying, “One might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.” Actually, had you lived in England in 1800, you might have seen men hanged for sheep-stealing. People were also put to death for many offenses which today would call for only short jail sentences. Still other offenders were deported to Australia. Moreover, in the early 1800’s people who owed money could be jailed until their debts were paid and the prisons to which they were sent were frightful places where old and young, hardened criminals and bewildered debtors, were thrown together.

2. The British system of representation needed reform. Although Parliament ruled the nation and the House of Commons was more powerful than the House of Lords, the British people were not fully represented in their government. Only about four percent of the population could vote in the early 1800’s. In the country districts it was the landowners who elected members to the House of Commons. By long custom, each town had its own rules as to who could vote.

Although the Industrial Revolution created new factory cities and towns, representation in the House of Commons had not kept pace with this change. Towns that had once been important continued to send members to the House of Commons, even though they might have dwindled into tiny villages. In one famous case a district entitled to send two representatives to the House of Commons consisted of nothing but a grassy hill surrounded by a stone wall. On the other hand, some manufacturing cities like Manchester, which had grown up around the new factories, had few if any representatives.

Local government in the country districts was carried on largely by justices of the peace. These were country gentlemen and landlords, many of whom were more interested in fanning and hunting than in government. In the towns and cities a handful of voters chose the officials. In some cases, the officials even named their own successors!

3. Other conditions called for reform. Besides unequal representation and the concentration of too much power in the hands of a few, there were other abuses to which reformers called attention in the early 1800’s. (1) In certain British colonies such as the West Indies, slavery still existed on the sugar plantations. (2) A high tariff on wheat imported into England kept the cost of bread high. (3) Although there was religious liberty (right to worship as one wished), there was not yet religious equality. For example, neither Roman Catholics nor Jews were permitted to be members of Parliament. (4) And there were the problems affecting workers — long hours, low pay, unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, child labour, and restrictions on labour unions.

William Wilberforce and other British reformers campaigned against slavery for years. Finally, in 1833 Parliament passed an act that gradually freed the 700,000 slaves in the British West Indies. As a first step, slaves became apprentices.
The British Act Abolishing Slavery
Whereas . . . persons are held in slavery within . . . His Majesty’s Colonies, and it is just and expedient that all such persons should be . . . set free, and that a reasonable compensation should be made to the persons hitherto entitled to the services of such slaves . . . and . . . that provision should be made for promoting the industry and securing the good conduct of the persons so to be manumitted [freed] for a limited time. . . . Be it therefore enacted that from the first day of August, 1834, all persons who . . . shall be actually within any such colony . . . of the full age of six years or upwards, shall . . . become and be apprenticed laborers. . . . Every slave engaged in his ordinary occupation on the seas shall be deemed . . . to be within the colony to which such slaves shall belong.

The landowning Tories resisted change. In the early 1800’s, Great Britain had two parties, the Tories and the Whigs. The Tories, who had been in power since the days of the French Revolution, were mainly country squires or landlords. They had been alarmed by the violence of the French Revolution. Like Metternich and other reactionaries after Napoleon’s downfall, they wanted to return to conditions as they were in the 1700’s. The Tories, to be sure, did pass laws correcting some of the worst abuses. Roman Catholics were permitted to hold office. Some of the harsh or even cruel punishments for petty offenses were abolished, but in general the Tories opposed reforms.

The Whigs put through the Reform Bill of 1832. The Whigs came into power in Parliament in the 1830’s. Among the Whigs were middle-class groups of merchants, bankers and mill-owners. Many of them lived in cities and towns which sent no representatives to the House of Commons. They were, therefore, more favourable to reform than the Tories. After a bitter struggle, the Whigs forced a Reform Bill through Parliament in 1832.

This act gave greater representation in the House of Commons to the growing industrial towns and cities. It also set up a uniform voting law throughout England and lowered somewhat the amount of property a man had to own in order to vote. As a result, most members of the British middle-class could now vote, but to workingmen who had held reform meetings and parades, the Reform Bill of 1832 was a bitter disappointment, for it did not give them the right to vote. Nevertheless this act was at least a start toward a more democratic government. Its chief importance was to shift power from country villages to cities and towns; and from landowners to the middle-class.

The Whigs made additional reforms. Now that the Whigs controlled Parliament, they were able to carry through many of the reforms they wanted. These included: (1) elected councils to govern cities and towns; (2) an end to slavery in colonies under British control (1833); (3) prison reforms; and (4) some support of public education. Some of the Whig reforms were more popular with the middle-class than with workingmen. For example, instead of being given a dole (direct government payment), a jobless man had to go to a workhouse (another name for poorhouse) and live there if he wanted government help. This plan cost less money than the dole system, but workers resented it.

Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901. In 1837 a girl of eighteen became Queen of England. During her reign of over 60 years Victoria became by far the most popular ruler since Elizabeth 1. People liked her because of her fairness, her dignity and her respect for the rights of all her subjects. Unlike Elizabeth, Victoria had little to do with actually running the government, although she had some influence. This difference was of course due to the fact that Parliament had greatly increased its power since the early 1600’s.

By Victoria’s time the affairs of the British government were carried on by leaders of the strongest political party in the House of Commons. This system is still in use today. Here is how it works: The leader of the party with a majority in the Commons becomes Prime Minister, the real head of the British government. The Prime Minister and his cabinet introduce laws in Parliament. When an important measure which they favour is not passed by the House of Commons, the cabinet has to resign and a new election is held. The voters then choose, in effect, between the policy of the recent Prime Minister and that of the opposing party. If the voters elect a majority of opposition candidates to the House of Commons, then the leader of the opposition party becomes Prime Minister and forms a cabinet.

Therefore, that if a political party in Great Britain hopes to stay in power, it must satisfy the voters. For this reason power seesawed between the Whigs (now called the Liberal Party) and the Tories (now called the Conservative Party) during Queen Victoria’s long reign. The leaders of each party backed reforms in order to satisfy the voters and in this way continue their party in power.

Great Britain scrapped its protective tariff. One important reform had to do with trade. By the 1840s Great Britain’s mines and factories far outstripped other countries in producing coal, iron, machinery and manufactured goods. Other countries could not match Britain’s output, so British factory owners needed no tax or tariff on imported manufactures to protect English-made goods from being undersold. Instead, Britain‘s “big businessmen” took the lead in urging an end to protective tariffs. They argued that if Great Britain did away with its tariffs, other countries would do likewise. With free trade (trade without tariff “walls” between countries), they insisted that more goods would be bought and sold and that the result would be greater prosperity for all.

Industrial revolution
William Gladstone, the great British Prime Minister, here advises Queen Victoria. Gladstone entered politics as a Conservative, but his deep concern over the need for reforms led him to join the Liberals.

British farmers and landowners, however, took a different view of the matter. They felt that the tariffs on wheat, barley and other grains — the so called Corn Laws — were responsible for their prosperity. These Corn Laws placed a tax on Canadian, Russian and American wheat imported into Britain and thus raised prices so English-grown grain could compete, but during the 1840’s crops were bad in England and a blight greatly reduced the potato crop in Ireland. It was sheer nonsense to talk of “protecting” homegrown grain when Englishmen were underfed and thousands of people in Ireland were dying of hunger. The Conservatives were in power, but enough of them voted with the middle-class liberals to bring an end to the Corn Laws in 1846. Shortly afterward other tariff duties were repealed. Great Britain thus became a free-trade country and remained so until after World War 1.

Gladstone and Disraeli undertook major reforms. During the late 1800’s Parliament passed several important reform measures. Credit for these reforms belongs in large part to two English statesmen — William Gladstone, leader of the Liberals and Benjamin Disraeli, leader of the Conservatives. Gladstone was the son of a merchant and had all the advantages of wealth and good education. He was a magnificent orator and could hold the attention of the House of Commons for hours at a time. Disraeli did much to extend and strengthen the British Empire. At home, even though he was a conservative, Disraeli carried through various measures to help workingmen.

Workers gained power. Bit by bit British workers gained more rights and benefits. Of some 20 major laws passed between 1867 and 1912, eight dealt with workers and their problems, five with voting rights and two with education.

In 1867 the right to vote was extended to town workers and by 1900 nearly all men could vote. A general system of public education was started in 1870 and extended in later years. Many laws were passed to improve working conditions. Trade unions gained power and collective bargaining between unions and employers became the general rule.

Between 1900 and 1912 a broad program of security for workers was set up. This program included (1) payments to workers injured in accidents, (2) old age pensions and (3) national insurance against illness and unemployment. It was not approved, however, without a bitter struggle between the two houses of Parliament. The House of Lords balked at the high taxes that would be required to pay the costs of the program, but in 1911 Prime Minister Asquith forced through a measure which turned over all control of money matters to the House of Commons.

Industrial revolution
Standing along the Thames are the stately towers of the British Parliament buildings, where the Houses of Parliament have held sessions for over two centuries. At the right is the great clock tower, where strikes the bell known to Londoners as “Big Ben.”

Gradual reform also took place in the United States. Since the early 1800’s, then, Great Britain had indeed come a long way along the path of gradual and peaceful reform, but orderly changes also took place in other countries where people possessed individual freedom and a voice in government through elected representatives. In the United States the right of the common man to vote spread earlier and faster than in Great Britain. The abolition of slavery, however, came thirty years later than in the British Empire and at the cost of four years of bitter warfare between the North and the South.

Industrial revolution
Through a series of reform laws, voting eventually became the right of all British men and women over 21. What percentage of the population could vote in 1832?

Many reforms occurred in America because of public demand. During the early 1800’s movements were started to bring about more humane treatment of prisoners and insane people, to increase women’s rights and to teach people the evils of alcohol. Horace Mann of Massachusetts and others led the fight to establish free tax supported schools and schools for the training of teachers.

Later, when the United States became a leading industrial nation, new problems arose. In response to public demand, Congress passed laws to prevent railroads from charging excessive rates (Interstate Commerce Act) and to outlaw business combinations unfair to smaller concerns (Sherman AntiTrust Act). Two Presidents in the early 1900’s, Theodore Roosevelt (Republican) and Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), proposed vigorous programs of reform. “Teddy” Roosevelt, as he was popularly called, aroused the nation to the need to conserve dwindling natural resources. Meanwhile, various state legislatures passed laws to protect women and children in industry, to safeguard workers from dangerous and unhealthy conditions in mines and factories and to require employers to pay workers who had been injured by accidents. A beginning was made in establishing minimum wage laws. As in England, there was strong opposition to some social reforms and they were put into effect throughout the nation only after years of debate. Nevertheless, from the founding republic Americans had successfully followed the path of gradual reform through democratic government.

4. How Did Socialism Get Started Among Discontented People in Europe during the Industrial Revolution?

Gradual social and political reform, worked fairly well in Great Britain and the United States, but in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia, the struggle between classes was sharper and more fierce. In the early 1800’s the middle and working classes in many countries worked side-by-side against kings and nobles in their efforts to win greater freedom. It was the middle-class, however, which made the chief gains wherever democracy moved forward on the European continent. Workers still could not vote and they suffered from low pay and poor working conditions. More and more, as the years passed, European town and city workers formed parties of their own and directed their attacks against the new rulers — the owners of banks, mines, railroads and factories. In some of the countries of Europe, several political parties grew up rather than a two-party system. In such countries workers became less interested in how government should be carried on than in how economic activities should be carried on. This new interest among European workingmen was illustrated by the growth of socialism.

America was torn apart by the War Between the States when in 1863 Abraham Lincoln spoke at the Gettysburg battlefield. He stated his faith in America’s future as a free, democratic nation in words which have inspired people round the world.
The Gettysburg Address
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. . . . It is . . . for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us . . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

What is socialism? The term socialism has been used with so many different meanings that it needs to be defined. Socialism, as we will use it, means the common ownership of the land, the mines, the factories, the railroads and the other means of production. Common ownership itself is a very old idea. Some savage tribes own a great deal of property in common.So did the people of old Sparta. Two famous books — Plato’s Republic, written in ancient Greece and More’s Utopia, published in England in the 1500’s — presented the idea of common ownership, but socialism as a political party movement came into existence with the Machine Age. It belongs entirely to the 1800’s and 1900’s.

Early Socialist projects were idealistic. Early modern socialism was based on the idea that people should work together co-operatively of their own free will. Dreamers and idealists proposed setting up communities where everyone would share the work and the wealth. Such plans followed the ideas expressed in More’s Utopia, these men were sometimes called Utopian Socialists.

One of these idealists was Robert Owen. Owen was a successful English factory owner who was dismayed by the evils of the factory system. He determined to correct them. In the town of Lanark, Scotland, in which his factories were located, he increased wages, improved working conditions, built better houses for workers and started schools. Owen however, found the work of reform discouraging, since other factory owners showed little interest in improving conditions and Parliament was slow to take action. Owen then proposed the founding of new communities in which people worked and shared alike. He established such a community in the United States, in Indiana. On this experimental town called New Harmony, Owen spent most of his fortune, but it failed as did other attempts of the Utopian Socialists. Owen’s teachings, however, led to the starting of the successful Rochdale co-operative store.

Socialists were of two kinds, moderate and revolutionary. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Socialists had split into two groups having very different programs of action. In various countries there were groups of moderate Socialists, who sought to improve the lot of mankind by a slow and orderly process of change. Moderate Socialists worked either through their own political party or as members of one of the major parties of a country to bring about the changes they desired by the passage of laws. At the other extreme were Socialists who advocated the use of force to gain their ends. Revolutionary Socialists believed that the workers of the world could bring about common ownership of the means of production only by overthrowing existing non-Socialist governments and establishing a world-wide dictatorship of workers. In brief, moderate Socialists believed in working within the law, while revolutionary Socialists favoured the overthrow of existing laws and governments.

Revolutionary socialism grew out of the ideas of Marx. Karl Marx was a German revolutionist whose radical ideas made it necessary for him to move from one European capital to another. Marx and his followers (Marxists) had little use for idealists like Owen or for moderate reformers. Marxists appealed directly to workers and advised them to organize political parties of their own. When the opportunity came, said Marx and his followers, workers should use their parties to seize the powers of government in order to take over the control of the new machine industries.

Marx’s program was announced in 1848 in a document called the Communist Manifesto and explained more fully in his book Capital. His teachings were based on these main ideas:

(1) All history, Marx insisted, had been a story of conflict between two classes — those who controlled production and those who did not. In the 1800’s this struggle was between the bourgeoisie, or owners of industry and business and the proletariat, or hired workers.

(2) Marx insisted that the most important factor in production was labour, yet the workers received only small wages while the owners received large profits.

(3) Industry and wealth, said Marx, were rapidly getting into the hands of a few owners, so that it would soon be easy for an organized working class to take over industry and make mines and factories the common property of all.

(4) Marx urged workers in all countries to unite in a world-wide movement to overthrow the owner or capitalist class.

Socialism called for more government action. The Socialist point of view, both moderate and extreme, differed sharply from the attitude of most businessmen and many others in the 1800’s who believed that the best government is the one which governs least. The principle of laissez faire would leave everything except maintaining law and order to the free action of private individuals. It was well expressed by the English writer John Stuart Mill in these words:

Speaking generally, there is no one so fitted to conduct any business, or to determine how or by whom it shall be conducted, as those who are personally interested in it. This principle condemns the interferences, once so common, of the legislature or the officers of government, with the ordinary processes of industry.

The Socialists, in contrast, relied on government action to bring about the reforms they wanted. To them progress meant not less government but more, provided, of course, that government action was especially devoted to the welfare of the workers.

Robert Owen as a boy spun cotton in a mill, but rose to the position of manager at the age of 19. When he became a millowner, he did away with child labour and initiated other reforms in his factories

As machine industry spread, so did socialism. By the close of the 1800’s socialism had many followers. It grew even faster in the first half of the 20th century. Socialist parties wielded a strong influence in politics in Germany, France, Britain and several other countries. In the United States the Socialist Party, not to be confused with the Communist Party, has been one of several minority parties.

Moderate Socialists formed political parties in these various countries in an effort to elect representatives who would be able to get laws passed that the Socialists desired. Although they hoped in time to bring about public ownership of all major industries, they combined with social reformers in working for reforms which would bring better working and living conditions and greater security for workers. Meanwhile, revolutionary Socialists from different countries had joined together in a common movement. The earliest organization — the First International — broke up after a few years. The Second International, which first met in 1889, lasted into the 1900’s. It enrolled millions of workers from many counties. The Third International, formed in 1919, was Communist rather than Socialist.

Marx’s teachings have been effectively answered. Marx’s ideas have been challenged and proved false on several grounds. Indeed, many modern Socialists admit Marx’s theories do not fit present conditions. (1) Marx said there would be a general world-wide revolution of workers against owners, but this has not come to pass. (2) He said that under a system of private ownership the position of workers would steadily become worse, but this has not been the case. On the contrary, in most industrial countries workers in general live much better and enjoy far more leisure than they did in Marx’s day. Moreover, the condition of workers in democratic countries like the United States is much better than it is in Communist countries like Russia or China. (3) Though goods cannot be produced without labour, labour is only one factor in industry. A successful business also depends on wise management and the willingness of people to invest money. (4) Finally, government ownership and management of business enterprises is no guarantee that they will be effectively operated. Most people have accepted government operation of the postal system, for example, but the question of how far government ownership and operation should be extended over industries which can be carried on by individuals or corporations has caused endless argument. In our own country many people believe public ownership and management tends to be inefficient and expensive and limits individual freedom.

In Great Britain and other Western countries where people had a real voice in the government, extreme forms of socialism made little headway in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. In orderly and democratic ways, governments have assumed more and more responsibility for the welfare of their people and have carried out many reforms. Slow as it has sometimes been, democracy seems to have helped more people find more answers to their problems than any other way of life.

5. How Did Literature and Other Arts Reflect Social Changes during the Industrial Revolution?

A hundred years from now historians wanting to know what people thought and did in our day could learn much from the newspapers, magazines, books and movies of the times. In the same way we can obtain some notion of people’s thoughts and interests during the past by studying their literature and other forms of art. We shall now seek to discover how the events of the late 1700’s and the 1800’s were reflected in the literature and art of Great Britain and other countries.

Romantic writing replaced the classical style. During the 1600’s and 1700’s most writers used a style that is called classical because it resembled the “classic” writings of ancient Greece and Rome. From about the time of the French Revolution to the 1850’s, however, the prevailing style was what we term romantic.

What was the difference between these two styles? Your English teacher will tell you that classical writers were interested in ancient Greek and Latin literature, imitating its dignity and style. They felt that writing should follow definite forms. Furthermore, these classical writers stressed the importance of reason rather than emotion and concerned themselves with the ideas and ways of living of the educated people of Europe. Romantic writers had a different point of view. They liked to write of strange countries and wonderful events. They were interested in the ballads and legends of the Middle-Ages. They used imagination and wrote with great feeling. They were much concerned with nature and with the life of the common people.

Romantic writers reflected the far-reaching changes of their day. What caused writers to give up classical style and adopt the romantic? Very briefly, these writers reflected great movements which swept Europe at the beginning of the 1800’s. These movements, included (1) the spread of human rights and democracy and (2) the growth of national patriotism. Writers became convinced that Europe was entering a new age.

The romantic movement was closely related to national patriotism. One of the strongest influences toward the romantic style was the growth of national patriotism. When people feel very proud of their country, they study its past. The new and strong national feeling led, therefore, to an interest in the old ballads of England and Scotland and the early literature of Ireland and Wales. It led also to a study of the old legends of Germany and Scandinavia and the history of almost every part of Europe in the Middle-Ages.

National patriotism also made people of the 1800’s more “history conscious” than people of earlier times. In the 1700’s an actor playing Shakespeare’s Macbeth would dress himself in silk stockings, knee breeches and a powdered wig, as all gentlemen of that period dressed. He knew well enough that nobles in Scotland about 1050 did not dress that way, but he didn’t worry about it. An actor of the 1800’s, however, would be careful to dress in what he thought was the kind of kilt and chain armour worn in Scotland in 1050.

This monument in the busy city of Edinburgh is a tribute to Sir Walter Scott, whose novels and poems based on Scottish history won great popularity in the 1800’s. You may have read his Ivanhoe.

The romantic movement was especially strong in Germany. Germany, where national feeling flowed deeply, was more affected than most countries by the romantic spirit. The poet Schiller’s heart, on fire with patriotism, found perfect expression in his best-known play, William Tell. Goethe’s greatest play, Faust, is based on an old story of the Middle-Ages. It tells how a man sold his soul to the Devil on condition that the Devil would give him superhuman knowledge. In Goethe’s play this story has a romantic twist. The Devil is unable to claim Faust’s soul because, no matter how often Faust may sin, he is always trying to do something splendid and make a better man of himself. The moral of Goethe’s play seems to be that those who keep on striving for the right are always saved and that only those content to remain evil can be lost.

Writers of other countries were much influenced by the German romantic movement. In Scotland, Sir Walter Scott, who had studied the new German literature, tried his hand at imitating and improving the old Scottish ballads. He also turned out historical novels better than anyone had written before.

The romantic spirit was strong among British poets. At the close of the 1700’s two English poets, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, wrote a book of poems which boldly challenged the old classical ideas. They claimed that scenes from humble life and the ordinary words of everyday conversation were good enough for poetry. The works of the Scottish poet Robert Burns and the English poets Byron, Keats and Shelley, also showed a definite break with the classical style of writing. In their poems you will find the freedom of expression, love of the marvelous, fondness for nature and sympathy for the poor and oppressed which were signs of the new romantic spirit.

Romantic writers were influenced by political events. These romantic writers often showed in what they wrote their feelings about events of their day. Wordsworth and Coleridge, for example, had been fired with sympathy for the French Revolution, but when it appeared that Napoleon’s ambition for power might turn this great movement for liberty against itself, they lost their enthusiasm for revolution. Somewhat later, poets like Shelley and Byron in England and novelists like Victor Hugo in France, protested against Metternich’s system of putting down national liberty by force. Byron died while a volunteer in the Greek war for independence and Victor Hugo went into exile rather than live under the tyranny of Napoleon III.

Realism replaced romanticism. About 1850 a new school of writers appeared. This new group, called realists, were aroused by the problems and evils that had resulted from the advance of science and the spread of the Industrial Revolution. They criticized the romantic writers for being “sentimental” and for idealizing the common man. The realists announced that they would describe life and people as they really were.

The difference between the romanticist and the realist can be illustrated by a quotation from the famous American short-story writer 0. Henry (William Sydney Porter).

When the man with the black mustache kidnaps golden-haired Bessie you are bound to have the mother kneel and say, “May high heaven witness that I will rest neither night nor day till the heartless villain that has stolen my child feels the weight of a mother’s vengeance”. . . . I’ll tell you what she’d say in real life. . . . “It’s one trouble after another! Get my other hat, I must hurry around to the police station. . . . Bessie must have been crazy; she’s usually shy of strangers. Is that too much powder? Lordy! How I’m upset!”

France and Russia contributed much to the realistic novel. In France writers like Balzac, de Maupassant and Zola tried to picture life accurately, just as does a candid-camera shot. They pointed out their heroes’ faults as well as their virtues and described the defects and evils which they saw about them. In Russia, on the other hand, the realistic novel usually tried to “put over” indirectly an idea which the author could not state bluntly because there was no freedom of the press. Russian novelists of the period wanted to show up the deep misery of the people in the hope that something would be done to improve conditions.

Realism also influenced the drama. Three famous Scandinavians, Ibsen, Bjornson and Strindberg, broke away from the older fashion of having the hero or heroine of a play speak in ringing and flowery speeches. They aimed rather to make the stage an ordinary room where men and women spoke in everyday language during critical events in their lives. George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright, poked fun at accepted customs and viewpoints.

Victorian literature was rich in fiction and poetry. During Queen Victoria’s long reign (1837-1901), the Industrial Revolution made progress, democracy grew slowly and social reforms took place. British writers of this so-called Victorian Age reflected these movements. Some of them were romanticists, some were realists, but most of their writings displayed (1) a belief that man and his world were governed by high moral purpose, (2) a great concern for respectability (decent character and behaviour) and (3) an interest in improving the lot of the less fortunate.

The most popular novelist of the Victorian Age was Charles Dickens. Not only was Dickens a master of the art of describing unforgettable characters, but he was also deeply concerned with such unsatisfactory conditions as poverty, child labour and unemployment in everyday British life. In nearly all of his novels he held up some abuse or form of oppression to ridicule. Dickens seems to have had considerable influence in arousing public opinion against the cruel practice of sending to prison unfortunate people who could not pay their debts.

George Bernard Shaw, the great Irish dramatist, was concerned with the social problems of modern life. This photograph of Shaw was taken shortly before his death in 1950, at the age of 94.

The two most important poets of the Victorian Age — Tennyson and Browning — formed an interesting contrast. Alfred Tennyson was everybody’s poet. Although he was honoured as the court poet, his works were also read in the humblest cottages. His most famous long poems are the Idylls of the King, based on old legends about King Arthur and In Memoriam, which described his thoughts about life, death and religion. Some think, however, that Tennyson was at his best in short poems. Robert Browning, on the other hand, was “the poet of the few” because many of his poems are not easy to read and the meaning is not always clear. The real subject of most of his poems was human nature-people’s minds and characters.

America developed a literature of its own. During the 1800’s Americans also developed a literature of their own. This movement was slow in starting because the people of the young nation were busy settling and expanding a new country. By the 1840’s, however, a truly American literature had begun. James Fenimore Cooper, for example, wrote about Indians and frontiersmen. New England produced a brilliant group of writers. Included among them was Longfellow, who was widely read and loved for his simple and charming verse and Emerson, who wrote thoughtful essays. Two other giants of American literature of that century were Walt Whitman and Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). Whitman’s poems, many of them in verse without rhyme, expressed a rugged faith in people and democracy. Mark Twain not only was one of America’s greatest humorists, but portrayed the life of the people in a particular locality. His Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn give a vivid picture of life along the Mississippi in early steamboat days.

The French artist Manet captured his ”impression” of sunlight on water in this portrait of a painter at work on a boat.

There were new movements in pictorial art as well as in literature. Various forms of art also reflected the romantic and realistic movements. Until after the time of Napoleon, French painting and sculpture followed the Greek and Roman styles. An example is the great Arch of Triumph in Paris. The figures on the Arch of Triumph were carved in Roman draperies. David, the most popular painter of Napoleon’s time, made his figures look as though they had stepped right out of Athens or Rome. Around 1820 artists stopped imitating the ancient models. Instead, some painters began to paint things as they wished they were. These painters belonged to the “romantic” school. Later, artists who were “realists” painted things as they really were. Some of the best painters did both.

Among the realistic painters, one of the most famous groups was the French “Barbizon school.” These painters specialized in landscapes and were more interested in showing the countryside in the natural light of the sun than in painting models in the studio. Many painters turned to everyday life for their subjects, painting beggars and ordinary backyards as well as fair ladies and beautiful gardens. Such pictures represented a return to the real life art of the Dutch painters of the 1600’s.

“Impressionists” appeared. The realists’ study of light had one curious result. Some painters tried to give a quick, fleeting “impression” of their subject instead of a detailed picture such as you might get in a photograph. Painters like the Frenchman Manet and the American Whistler paid less attention to details than to general effect. Impressionism affected sculpture too. If you compare some of the smooth, polished marble statues of the early 1800’s with the rugged, unfinished strength of Rodin’s sculptures at the end of the century, you will see a very different effect. This is not to say that either style is better than the other, for there is an old Latin proverb that “you can’t argue about tastes!”

Music achieved its greatest triumphs in modern times. Although music is one of the oldest arts, the most striking developments in this field have taken place during modern times. One reason was the improvement in musical instruments. The organ, unknown in ancient times, was developed in the medieval cathedrals. The piano is a descendant of the tinkling harpsichord of the 1700’s and the violin was improved in Italy to its present form between the 1500’s and the 1700’s. Most of the instruments of a great modern orchestra are comparatively recent.

Another reason why music has developed as rapidly as it has in the past 250 years has been the appearance of new types of musical composition. These include the oratorio (a religious poem set to music) and the opera (music drama); Handel, a German-born composer of the early 1700’s who had moved to England, composed oratorios. One of them, the Messiah, is still sung in churches and at music festivals. The Italians had composed operas as early as the Renaissance. French and German composers also enriched the world’s treasury of “grand opera.” In a lighter vein, the world has enjoyed the English Operettas or comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. These deal with familiar types of people and their amusing faults. High-school and college glee clubs often present Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pinafore, The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance.

Music, too, had its classical and romantic movements. In addition to Handel, two other composers stood out in the 1700’s. Bach is sometimes considered the founder of modern music and Mozart, who played his own compositions before large audiences when he was only five years old, wrote 600 pieces of music. These three composers belonged to the classical age. They did not imitate the music of the Greeks and Romans, but they did follow certain set patterns which fitted in with the classical spirit. Then, at the time of Napoleon, Beethoven struck out along new lines. He not only worked out new musical patterns, but his music had a message for his listeners. Often considered the greatest of all composers, Beethoven was stone-deaf when he wrote some of his most glorious music. Beethoven paved the way for the romantic composers, of whom Richard Wagner was outstanding.

The symphonies, operas and concertos of the German classical composer Mozart continue to be great favourites of music lovers today. Here Mozart as a boy performs for The Austrian emperor.

Many Europeans composed great music. During the 1800’s composers of many lands created musical masterpieces which you may hear today on records or over the radio. There were Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms and Richard Strauss from Germany; Debussy and César Franck of France; the Austrian Franz Schubert; the Polish-born Chopin; the Hungarian Liszt; the Bohemian Dvorak; the Italian Verdi; the Norwegian Grieg; the Russian Tschaikovsky; and the Finnish Sibelius. Such composers not only added to the world’s treasury of great music but in many cases reflected the feelings of their peoples. Thus Chopin’s music for the piano voiced the longing of the Polish people for freedom, while Liszt’s Rhapsodies portrayed the lives of Hungarian peasants and Sibelius’ tremendous Finlandia is almost to Finland what the Marseillaise is to France.

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