The Industrial Revolution made great changes in how and where people worked.
An important movement during the period was agricultural reform. Farms were enclosed, or closed off from each other, with the passing of the Enclosure Acts. This was done in order to bring scattered plots of land together under one owner and to divide common land into private lots. The larger, more cohesive enclosed farms were more efficient because they were operated on a larger scale, and because they were less susceptible to scavenging. However, poor farmers often received the worse shares of land in area undergoing enclosure, and could not afford the necessary adjustments to their farms.
Also, they could not compete with the increased output of farms that used new technologies, which were only effective and affordable on large farms.
Important technological gains were made during the period in the agricultural field. Crop rotation and varied crops replenished nutrients in the soil, while machines such as the seed drill performed tasks with greater precision and speed than human laborers. A series of laws passed in England during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, known as the Enclosure Acts, led to the enclosure or fencing-off of farms. Where land had previously been shared in a community or divided into small lots, farms were now redistributed and enclosed. Those who had many land holdings could combine them into large farms, where the new production methods could be profitably implemented. These were more efficient and were also safe from scavenging, a previously accepted practice wherein the peasants had the right to take food left behind on landlords' fields. However, poor farmers often got small parcels of worse-quality land. The land was less productive, and prevented small farmers from using new technologies. They could not afford the costs of building fences around their property - enclosure itself - or competition with larger, more efficient farms. Therefore, many tenant farmers and laborers lost their work as farmers.
Reacting to this, Arnold Toynbee wrote in his Lectures on the Industrial Revolution , "In 1811 it constituted 35 per cent of the whole population of Great Britain ; in 1821, 33 per cent; in 1831, 28 per cent/ And at the same time its actual number have decreased. In 1831 there were 1,243,057 adult males employed in agriculture in Great Britain ; in 1841 there were 1,207,989. In 1851 the whole number of persons engaged in agriculture in England was 2,084,153; in 1861 it was 1,010,454, and in 1871 it was 1,657,138."
Other people's work was replaced by factory production. Women who had previously taken in piecework as part of the "putting-out" system, where they would buy materials from an employer and then receive payment for manufacturing items such as clothing in their homes, lost much of their work. Also, those who worked in the local production of items that had been industrialized, such as the local weaver or cobbler, as well as skilled artisans such as potters, could not compete with the higher output and lower prices of factories.
Some sectors, however, experienced radical employment growth. As factories increased in size, number, and productivity, there was more necessity for unskilled labor to man the machines. Industrial work had a high turnover rate, because few industrial jobs required specialized knowledge. Labor was, according to an interviewed historian, "commoditized" - one worker was essentially as good as another - so the future of a worker was unpredictable. Also, mechanized production required rigid adherence to a production method. It was imperative for each worker to stay on schedule and perform each task exactly as dictated, so there was little opportunity for advancement. However, almost all of the available jobs at the time consisted of simple labor. The same type of employment was available in the development of infrastructure, such as canals and railroads.
The rise of factory production also gave rise to a completely new section of the job market. Large factories required a totally different type of management than small shops. Jobs in this area became available to reasonably well-educated men, in positions such as clerks, secretaries, and managers. This "expanded the middle class" and created a "dependent lower class", who would rely on industrial production for employment.
Toynbee, Arnold. Lectures on the Industrial Revolution (Rivington, 1884). Lecture VIII, p. 85-93
Interview with Robert Glover, History Educator; 1. 25. 06
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