Success and Failures of Political and Social Reform Movements
Industrialization did bring with it overwhelming strain and therefore enacting of reforms in Great Britain and America to overcome these pressures was necessary. A writer by the name Charles Dickens did refer this period as a best moment and the worst moment in his work, “A Tale of Two Cities”. His saying did express the 19th century and early 20th century situation in which people in the society especially the owners of the industries, their lives were becoming better and better, on the other hand, the poor who worked in the industries had their lived in bad situation (Sunderland, 2007). This type of life did not receive acceptability, therefore, labor unions and members of parliament did urge for changes that would generally improve the quality of life to the people (Mokyr & Nye, 2007). Formation of reform movements did occur. Some reforms were successful while others fail. In this article, concentration will be on the success and failures of the social and political reforms.
Besides the adults who did work for long hours in the factories around machines, which often did cost them their fingers on small slip, children did work with them too. Around 1850s, British population, around half of it had taken residence in the cities in order to offer labor in the industries.. The children’s responsibilities in the factories was to do jobs like working in areas where the adults could not fit in. this often resulted to injuries leading to death of the children. A child labor reform was of great importance. Humphries, (2013) says that many children especially from poor families under the age of ten did work in the factories in the early 19th century. Robert Peel, a parliamentarian, and a number of rich factory owners, did recommend that children working in the factories to have good working conditions and reduction of shift hours for those workers below the age of 21 years. Sunderland, (2007) did say that the factory act forbade children below 16 years to work for more than 10 hours in the factories. In addition, children under the age of 13 years were to attend educational classes each day. In 1840s among the reforms achievements were that educational periods for children was enlarged and by 1891, the labor of children below 11 years was prohibited by the British Parliament and most children did attend primary school but the education did not reach the most rural poor children who also needed education.
On the political aspect, the Industrial revolution happens to have created different classes of people in the society who wanted their views taken into consideration in the political processes. In the early 19th century, men allowed to vote were those who had ownership of land worth above 40 shilling per year. This was just a two percent of the population of England. Change of demographics occurring due to the industrialization called for enactment of new reforms, as districts having a high population required equally an increased number of representatives in the parliament. Big industrial metropolises such as Oldham and Manchester had only two member of parliament while as an area like Wiltshire, England had two parliamentary representatives besides having just only one male eligible to vote (Humphries, 2013). Making reforms to prevent these disparities was necessary; by 1884, every British male, and not females got possession of the right to vote for their own parliamentary representative. Protests reached an end on rights to vote and this clearly shows the positive results of the political reforms.
Faced by social and political problems of rapid industrialization was also America in the 19th century. This includes poverty, poor health, racism, and class warfare. This led to social and political reform movements to curb that. Sunderland, (2007) says that revelation of the unhealthy conditions in the industries involved in packing of meat occurred when a writer by the name Upton Sinclair published his book, The Jungle. Reforms were made by the federal government whereby a Meat Inspection Act (1906)) was enacted requiring the meatpacking factories to maintain sanitary and health standards. Sunderland, (2007) also says that undertaking regular inspections became the norm in the industries and less people got harm from eating the preserved meat but the inspectors did receive bribes hence they avoiding factories owned by those corrupt rich people hence putting the meat consumers at risk.
A significance period of development and formation of reforms occurred in Britain and America during the 19th century and early 20th century. The main trigger being the industrialization, which caused demographical changes, which resulted to political and social concerns. The British parliament did respond to the changing situations. The rural-urban migration and the unregulated growth of factories had great social problems. These includes poor housing in the cities and overworking of adults and children in the factories. British Parliament curbed this by prohibiting child labor and enforcement of basic education to the children, which besides problematic start, increased in quality over the 19th century, and early 20th century. In addition to the above, new social classes of men developed and demanded access to the political system. Right to vote by every male in the country was given by the Great Britain (nevertheless, women we still left out).