Towards the end of the Victorian reign, the great Industrial Revolution took place. This revolution which showcased new scientific inventions also brought about great alterations in the living conditions in Victorian England. Some for the better while some proved to be detrimental.
Population increase impacted living conditions
First and foremost, the 19th century witnessed rapid population increase, the reasons for which are not very clearly explained. But some of the reasons which can be quoted are mortality rate going lower, an increase in the child survival rate, a large number of immigrants coming from Ireland etc to name a few. The end of the century saw a three times increase in the population of Britain.
One of the natural consequences of the sudden increase in population gave rise to the creation of new towns and cities. The main reason for this was a large number of people migrating from the rural areas to the cities in search of employment due to the industrial revolution which led to the creation of jobs.
A large number of skilled and unskilled workers went around in search of jobs though they were very lowly paid. Another consequence of this was the overcrowding of towns and cities thereby resulting in the creation of slum housing as accommodation had become extremely expensive for the common people to afford.
Life for the poor in Victorian England
This overcrowding of towns and cities and the resultant overcrowding also gave rise to sanitation problems. Just to quote, Henry Mayhew, was a journalist, who in an article dated 24th September 1849 described a Victorian London street as a tidal ditch running through it, into which the drains and sewers emptied.
The ditch contained the only water the people in the street had to drink. And it was the color of the string green tea, infact, it was more like watery mud than muddy water. Such was the plight of the people back then.
Working conditions in Victorian England
Child labor was a landmark feature of the Victorian regime. Children were expected to support their families. They were made to work in dangerous places like mines, chimney sweeps etc for long hours and were extremely low paid.
Due to poor wages paid to the workers, people could not sustain themselves sufficiently. Also, the number of members per family was quite large. This consequently led to cases of death due to starvation and destitution. Destitute children took up stealing to sustain themselves. This resulted in the failure of the maintenance of law and order in society.
But despite all these dark clouds which surrounded Britain at this point in time, there also emerged silver lining to it. The society’s attitude towards the poor and deprived started changing for the better with people empathizing with the downtrodden people. This also paved a way for intense philanthropy resulting in the emergence of numerous charitable institutions like the Children’s Society for instance.
Thus, it can be observed that while Britain suffered from so many problems which can be attributed to as the possible side effects of the Industrial Revolution, yet it also witnessed the origin of a Philanthropic attitude among the people which can be also termed as a sense of awareness and sympathy for the people living around them who in so many ways were deprived of the basic necessities of life.