While it has been concluded that the Industrial Revolution was a major turning point of modern world history, the question remains whether that period of unprecedented scientific and industrial advancement actually improved living conditions of the Western European—particularly the British—masses. Before one can realize the effect the Industrial Revolution had upon the English working class, a brief definition of the period and summary of circums-tances leading up to it might be helpful. Text or reference book definitions of the Industrial Revolution commonly describe the period as one of social, economic, and cultural change, initially tak-ing place in Great Britain in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The period was characterized by an increase in the output of industrial goods—many of which had previously been unavailable to the public—and the coinciding acceleration of the use of power-driven machinery to produce these goods. A decline in demand for manual and domestic production is also noted of the period, in relation to the advent of the machine. The century preceding the Industrial Revolution in England was characterized by a new and expanding trade market, which was hard pressed to keep up with the growing demand for diverse commodities on an international level. Accompanying this new demand was an unprecedented willingness of the consumer to pay for the necessities of life. Western Europe was torn by wars for a century prior to the Industrial Rev-olution. The main thrust of many of these disputes (namely King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, King George’s War, and the Seven Years’ War, particularly between England and France, long-time commercial enemies) was over trade routes, goods, or customers. In these war-torn years, however, England ma-naged to take the lead in international commerce and in building a colonial sys-tem, gaining footholds in Asia Minor, India, Africa, and the New World. Finally, “in 1763, after the signing of the Treaty of...
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