THE GROWTH OF THE TOWNS EXPOSES WRETCHED LIVING CONDITIONS

THE new industrial conditions, in which machinery and mass production were the main factors, increased the profits of those with capital to take advantage of them. Domestic labour was now displaced by factories employing hundreds of people. The typical factory owner was a self-made man, a social conscience was uncommon, and there was a strong tradition against legislative interference. He was therefore free to make hours long, wages low, profits enormous or failure spectacular; to disclaim responsibility for death or accidents sustained by his employees from unfenced machinery or mine explosions; to use insanitary and ill-ventilated sheds for factories; to run up towns of insanitary hovels; to employ children in cotton mills almost as soon as they could walk, and to have half-naked women hauling trucks underground in coal mines.

However, these things were not new. They had always existed in domestic industry, while towns had always been unhealthy places. The ugly new northern towns simply exposed such conditions on a large scale and in a concentrated area. The health of the population actually improved, and real wages probably rose, despite periods of distress, due mostly to the Napoleonic Wars, with their high prices, shortage of supplies, and post-war unemployment.

The parliamentary system, giving representation chiefly to the landed interest and to the south of England, had been due for reform in Cromwell's time. Agitation for reform revived in the 1780's and then was deferred for half a century by the reaction against the principles of the French Revolution. Meanwhile the Industrial Revolution gave importance to new unrepresented areas and to a new class of wealthy factory owners, distinct from the landowners and the London shippers, and extremely impatient of landowning pretensions. The political consequences of this will be dealt with later. Meanwhile the Industrial Revolution provided funds which enabled England to fight France for twenty years and to subsidise any continental state willing to assist.

Had Napoleon's energies been devoted to industry and not to war, or had he even organised war on modern lines, he might have driven industrial change ahead faster in France than it progressed in England. But he did not. France began after his fall to adopt English methods, Germany and Belgium followed France more slowly, but the other nations hardly industrialised at all. The United States went ahead with inventions in their own agricultural domain and took up railway construction with vigour. The continental nations were compelled at first to import English engineers and mechanics, even English capital and managers; their people were often reluctant to enter factories in the English way and unable to accomplish such feats of labour as those performed by the English " navvies" during the railway construction period.