Past Thesis Statements:

The Industrial Revolution occurred first in England due to the laissez-faire principles followed by the British government. These policies enabled venture capitalists to finance the development of new technologies which led first to a revolution in agriculture and then to the invention of the steam engine. The steam engine revolutionized the means of production and then the modes of transportation, making Britain the wealthiest country in the world. This wealth enabled the British people as a whole to improve their standard of living and lead Europe into the modern world.

Due to advances in food production and to liberal political freedoms in England, the population boomed and competition for profit made the economy more productive. As more and more people could afford English goods, factory owners sought more efficient production and higher profits. In the process, an industrial economy came into being. An avalanche of new inventions utilized the new source of power, coal, and the new building material, iron. Factory owners, though, maximized profits by exploiting the workers. What initially seemed the ideal dream of urban prosperity and productivity, quickly became a nightmare for the working and lower classes as conditions worsened, diseases ran rampant, and the poor grew conscious of their subservient position in the new social order. In the second half of the nineteenth century, London took the place of Manchester as the prime example of an ideal industrial city. This “new world city” began to blossom and burgeon, its population exploding and its borders expanding. Art and literature during the Victorian era reflected conflicting ideological conceptions of social justice; some of the writers published pulp fiction to placate the workers, while others agitated for political  reform, while still others encouraged a violent revolution. In the long run, reformers won the debate and workers were able to secure a prominent position in the political system.

Enlightenment thinkers believed that the synthesis of science with liberalism would lead to social progress; however, the city grew into a squalid and corrupt industrial complex. When the workers compared the conditions in which they lived with the opulent lifestyle of the rich factory owners, they challenged the foundations of capitalism by demanding reforms. To prevent revolution, the owners agreed to modify their laissez faire ideals and grant political rights to placate the poor. The more the city grew, though, social unrest increased, and as a result of the quest to dominate international trade, devastating war enveloped the world.

The Industrial Revolution created vast wealth while also improving the standard of living for most people. Even so, this new industrial economy produced cities that struggled to cope with poverty, and the social gap between rich and poor increased substantially. Over an period of several decades, workers agitated for legislation from Parliament that would regulate child labor, improve workplace safety, reduce the length of the work week, and finally give all men the right to vote. Judged according to utilitarian standards of social justice, the Industrial Revolution produced progress because it achieved the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

The Industrial Revolution was meant to be an expansion of the Enlightenment belief in progress, but capitalism, ironically, ended up widening the relative gap between the rich and poor, and the exploitation of this growing rift by politicians led to the rise of fascism, communism, and eventually world war.

England’s Industrial Revolution made progress in technology and standards of living, yet as the poor began to protest their worsening life style, the government was forced to intervene.
The technological revolution in the modes of production of the 19th c. English economy demonstrated that reason applied to social problems produces progress. Still, workers had to fight for their rights by using the political system to demand their fair share of prosperity: better salaries, better working conditions, better housing, and the right to vote. Conservatives countered by creating a mass media culture designed to distract workers from protesting the drastic gap between the social classes.