What Were the Living Conditions During the Industrial Revolution?

During the Industrial Revolution, living conditions improved for the middle and upper classes due to the increased availability of goods produced in factories. However, for the lower classes who labored in the factories, living conditions were overcrowded, disease-ridden and unsanitary.

The Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the late 18th century and afterwards spread to the rest of Europe and the United States, caused massive sociological change. Before the Industrial Revolution, people lived in rural communities, and the manufacture of goods took place at home or in small shops, either by hand or with the help of rudimentary machines. The growth of factories forced factory workers to move from the countryside and cluster into housing constructed so rapidly that little consideration was given to public health. Outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid were common.

Besides living in poor-quality housing, factory laborers suffered under horrendous working conditions. Work was monotonous, and workplace safety was minimal. Factories were damp, filthy, noisy, poorly ventilated and poorly lit. Men, women and children worked extremely long hours for very little pay. Not until the mid-19th century did governments and unions begin to address living and working conditions for industrial workers. Though a modicum of legislation was passed limiting the practice, children laboring in factories and mines for poor wages under slavery-like conditions continued until the 20th century.