The industrial revolution describes the dramatic and long-lasting change in Britain’s landscape and infrastructure during the 18th and 19th Centuries. In the 1700s, work was localised and family-orientated, largely agricultural and driven by hand and horse labour. But as innovations in steam power and the design of machinery developed and advanced, new factories, mines, railways and canals began to radically transform the landscape, manufacturing and the way people lived and worked. Cities experienced spectacular growth rates as people migrated from rural to urban areas to work – often far away from their families. Productivity increased and the economy thrived.
But ‘progress’ brought with it dire social consequences. Men, women and children as young as eight years old now worked to the clock, no longer reliant on daylight hours or tides, with the working day often in excess of 14 hours. Overcrowding and dangerous working conditions led to injury, early death and the spread of disease. Wages were low and unemployment high, leading to unrest and protest. Changing labour patterns have also been linked to younger female ages of marriage and higher rates of birth outside of wedlock by the mid 1800s, as young women either took opportunities or were victimised by the greater geographical separation they experienced as a consequence of urbanisation and industrial employments.