The reform movements of the 19c were a response to the excesses of the Industrial Revolution.  Using the documents and your general knowledge of European history, assess the validity of this statement.



SOURCE:  19c British textile workers.



SOURCE:  19c British mine workers.



SOURCE:  Urban Slum, early-19c England.



... no person under eighteen years of age shall [work] between half-past eight in the evening and half-past five in the morning, in any cotton, woolen, worsted, hemp, flax, tow, linen or silk mill...

... no person under the age of eighteen shall be employed in any such mill ... more than twelve hours in ... one day, nor more than sixty-nine hours in ... one week...

There shall be allowed ... not less than one and a half-hours for meals.

It shall not be lawful ... to employ in any factory ... as aforesaid, except in mills for the manufacture of silk, any child who shall not have completed his or her ninth year.

It shall not be lawful for any person to employ ... in any factory ... as aforesaid for longer than forty-eight hours in one week, nor for longer than nine hours in one day, any child who shall not have completed his or her eleventh year...

It shall be lawful for His Majesty to appoint four Inspectors of factories where ... children and young persons under eighteen years of age [are] employed, empowered to enter any ... mill, and any school ... belonging thereto, at all times ... by day or by night, when such ... factories are at work.

The Inspectors shall have power to make such rules as may be necessary for the execution of this act, binding on all persons subject to the provisions of this act; and are authorized to enforce the attendance at school of children employed in factories according to the provisions of this act.

Every child restricted to the performance of forty-eight hours of labour in any one week shall attend some school…

SOURCE: Statutes of the Realm, 3 & 4 William IV, c. 103.



SOURCE:  Chartist political rally.



…Thus, in our attempts to improve, by legislation, the condition of the poor, we have not only multiplied the number, but reduced them to a state of degradation before unknown. By our poor laws and our charities, we have pauperized, and almost ruined the country.

In our commerce and manufactures also, the effects of legislation have been equally mischievous. By our well meant, but injudicious attempt to foster and protect, we have constantly been driving capital from productive into unproductive channels, encouraging the smuggler, checking our commerce, and stunting our manufactures; and our efforts to procure to the operatives a fair remuneration for their labour, has always ended in a reduction of their wages, or in depriving them altogether of employment…

SOURCE:  Pamphlet: In Defence of Laissez-Faire, c. 1840.



… The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it….

SOURCE:  Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, 1776.



            … I have been warmed and delighted with the enchanting picture which they hold forth.  I ardently wish for such happy improvements.  But I see great and, to my understanding, unconquerable difficulties in the way to them.  These difficulties it is my present purpose to state, declaring, at the same time, that so far from exulting in them, as a cause of the triumphing over the friends of innovation, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see them completely removed…

[These difficulties are]

… First, That food is necessary to the existence of man.

Secondly, That the passion between the sexes is necessary and will remain nearly in its present state.

            These two laws, ever since we have had any knowledge of mankind, appear to have been fixed laws of our nature; and as we have not hitherto seen any alteration in them, we have no right to conclude that they will ever cease to be what they are now, without an immediate act of power in that Being who first arranged the system of the universe, and for the advantage of His creatures, still executes, according to fixed laws, all its various operations…

            Assuming, then, my postulata as granted, I say that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce substance for man…

SOURCE:  Thomas R. Malthus.



…When the market price of labour is below its natural price, the condition of the labourers is most wretched: then poverty deprives them of those comforts which custom renders absolute necessaries. It is only after their privations have reduced their number, or the demand for labour has increased, that the market price of labour will rise to its natural price, and that the labourer will have the moderate comforts which the natural rate of wages will afford.

Notwithstanding the tendency of wages to conform to their natural rate, their market rate may, in an improving society, for an indefinite period, be constantly above it; for no sooner may the impulse, which an increased capital gives to a new demand for labour, be obeyed, than another increase of capital may produce the same effect; and thus, if the increase of capital be gradual and constant, the demand for labour may give a continued stimulus to an increase of people....

Thus, then, with every improvement of society, with every increase in its capital, the market wages of labour will rise; but the permanence of their rise will depend on the question, whether the natural price of labour has also risen; and this again will depend on the rise in the natural price of those necessaries on which the wages of labour are expended....

As population increases, these necessaries will be constantly rising in price, because more labour will be necessary to produce them. If, then, the money wages of labour should fall, whilst every commodity on which the wages of labour were expended rose, the labourer would be doubly affected, and would be soon totally deprived of subsistence. Instead, therefore, of the money wages of labour falling, they would rise; but they would not rise sufficiently to enable the labourer to purchase as many comforts and necessaries as he did before the rise in the price of those commodities....

These, then, are the laws by which wages are regulated, and by which the happiness of far the greatest part of every community is governed. Like all other contracts, wages should be left to the fair and free competition of the market, and should never be controlled by the interference of the legislature.

SOURCE:  David Ricardo: The Iron Law of Wages, 1817.



Question: What reasons have you to suppose it is injurious to the children to be employed at an earlier age?

Robert Owen: Seventeen years ago, a number of individuals, with myself, purchased the New Lanark establishment from Mr. Dale. I found that there were 500 children, who had been taken from poor-houses, chiefly in Edinburgh, and those children were generally from the age of five and six, to
seven to eight. The hours at that time were thirteen. Although these children were well fed their limbs were very generally deformed, their growth was stunted, and although one of the best schoolmasters was engaged to instruct these children regularly every night, in general they made very slow progress, even in learning the common alphabet. I came to the conclusion that the children were injured by being taken into the mills at this early age, and employed for so many hours; therefore, as soon as I had it in my power, I adopted regulations to put an end to a system which appeared to me to be so injurious.

SOURCE:  Robert Owen appearance before Robert Peel's House of Commons Committee, April 26, 1816.



… The present system of Commerce was the growth of circumstance and accident. Never did such a system better deserve condemnation as being vicious and corrupt. What is the power to intervene to repress this fraud? Government. To elevate Nature Humanity must create and organize a perfect system of industry, discover and perfect the physical sciences, and establish on a peaceful and industrial basis an order of Society that will direct its labors to the work of terrestrial cultivation and improvement. To elevate itself Humanity must create the Fine Arts, discover the Sciences and establish an order which will lead to social harmony. Under a true organization of Commerce, property would be abolished, the Mercantile classes become agents for trade of industrial goods and Commerce would then be the servant of Society…

SOURCE:  Charles Fourier’s Theory of Social Organization, 1820.



            …The government ought to float a loan with the proceeds of which it should erect social workshops in the most important branches of national industry.

As these establishments would demand considerable investments, the number of these workshops at the start ought to be carefully limited, still they would possess, by virtue of their organization-as we shall see later-an unlimited expansion.

The government, considered as the only founder of the workshops, must determine the statutes regulating them. This code, deliberated and voted for by the representatives of the people ought to have the power and force of a law…

Every member of the social workshops would have the right to use, according to his discretion, the profits of his labor; but it would not be long before the evident economy and the incontestable excellence of this communal life would call forth other voluntary associations among the workmen according to their needs and pleasure…

SOURCE:  Louis Blanc: The Organization of Labour. 1840.



              The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
            Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
             In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.
            The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.
           Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other -- bourgeoisie and proletariat.

SOURCE:  Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles: Communist Manifesto, 1848.


DBQ Question created by::

Caitlin McKoy
Class of 2002
Maria Regina H. S.
Hartsdale, NY  10530