Primary Source Documents for the Industrial Revolution with Questions


Industrial Revolution Documents Main

As a history teacher primary and secondary source documents are a necessary component of many lessons. Searching for these fundamental resources can send you down many rabbit holes and eat up tons of time. Teach ‘n Thrive is aiming to solve that pain point:-)

Below are several documents relating to the Industrial Revolution. There are possible questions to ask your students added and 2 writing prompts at the end.

If you want a Google Doc version of this article scroll down to the bottom of the post and click the button.

INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION DOCUMENTS

. . Steam-engines furnish the means not only of their support but of their multiplication. They create a vast demand for fuel; and, while they lend their powerful arms to drain the pits and to raise the coals, they call into employment multitudes of miners, engineers, ship-builders, and sailors, and cause the construction of canals and railways: and, while they enable these rich fields of industry to be cultivated to the utmost, they leave thousands of fine arable fields free for the production of food to man, which must have been otherwise allotted to the food of horses. Steam-engines moreover, by the cheapness and steadiness of their action, fabricate [produce] cheap goods, and procure [acquire] in their exchange a liberal supply of the necessaries and comforts of life, produced in foreign lands. . . 
Source: Andrew Ure, The Philosophy of Manufactures: or, an Exposition of the Scientific, Moral, and Commercial Economy of the Factory System of Great Britain, A. M. Kell

IDENTIFY 3 POSITIVE EFFECTS OF STEAM ENGINES.

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 Edwin Chadwick presented a report to Parliament as secretary to a commission that investigated sanitary conditions and means of improving them.

. . . First, as to the extent and operation of the evils which are the subject of the inquiry: . . . That the formation of all habits of cleanliness is obstructed by defective supplies of water. That the annual loss of life from filth and bad ventilation are greater than the loss from death or wounds in any wars in which the country has been engaged in modern times. That of the 43,000 cases of widowhood, and 112,000 cases of destitute orphanage relieved from the poor’s rates in England and Wales alone, it appears that the greatest proportion of deaths of the heads of families occurred from the above specified and other removable causes; that their ages were under 45 years; that is to say, 13 years below the natural probabilities of life as shown by the experience of the whole population of Sweden. . . .

Source: Edwin Chadwick, Report on an Inquiry into the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain, W. Clowes and Sons, 1842

HOW DID EDWIN CHADWICK USE COMPARISONS TO DESCRIBE PROBLEMS IN THE FACTORY?

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. . . Every great town has one or more slum areas into which the working classes are packed. Sometimes, of course, poverty is to be found hidden away in alleys close to the stately homes of the wealthy. Generally, however, the workers are segregated in separate districts where they struggle through life as best they can out of sight of the more fortunate classes of society. The slums of the English towns have much in common—the worst houses in a town being found in the worst districts. They are generally unplanned wildernesses of one- or two-storied terrace houses built of brick. Wherever possible these have cellars which are also used as dwellings. These little houses of three or four rooms and a kitchen are called cottages, and throughout England, except for some parts of London, are where the working classes normally live. The streets themselves are usually unpaved and full of holes. They are filthy and strewn with animal and vegetable refuse.. . . .
Source: Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England, W. O. Henderson and W. H. Chaloner, eds., Stanford University Press

BASED ON THE DOCUMENT, WHAT WERE 2 PROBLEMS WITH THE LIVING CONDITIONS OF THE WORKING CLASS?

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Excerpt from the Sadler Report: Thomas Bennett, a parent of child laborers, testified before Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on May 18, 1832.

Sadler: Were your children working under you then? Bennett: Yes, two of them. Sadler: State the effect upon your children. Bennett: Of a morning when they had to get up, they have been so fast asleep that I have had to go up stairs and lift them out of bed, and have heard their crying with the feelings of a parent; I have been much affected by it. Sadler: Were not they much fatigued at the termination of such a day’s labour as that? Bennett: Yes; many a time I have seen their hands moving while they have been nodding, almost asleep; they have been doing their business almost mechanically. Sadler: While they have been almost asleep, they have attempted to work? Bennett: Yes; and they have missed the carding and spoiled the thread, when we have had to beat them for it. Sadler: Could they have done their work towards the termination of such a long day’s labour, if they had not been chastised [punished] to it? Bennett: No. Sadler: You do not think that they could have kept awake or up to their work till the seventeenth hour, without being chastised? Bennett: No. Sadler: Will you state what effect it had upon your children at the end of their day’s work? Bennett: At the end of their day’s work, when they have come home, instead of taking their victuals [food], they have dropped asleep with the victuals in their hands; and sometimes when we have sent them to bed with a little bread or something to eat in their hand, I have found it in their bed the next morning. . . .
Source: The Sadler Report: Report from the Committee on the “Bill to Regulate the Labour of Children in the Mills and “Factories of the United Kingdom:” with the Minutes of Evidence, House of Commons, 1832

DESCRIBE THE WORKDAY OF A CHILD DURING THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.

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1833 Factory Act

In 1833 the Government passed a Factory Act to improve conditions for children working in factories. Young children were working very long hours in workplaces where conditions were often terrible. The basic act was as follows:

  • no child workers under nine years of age
  • employers must have an age certificate for their child workers
  • children of 9-13 years to work no more than nine hours a day
  • children of 13-18 years to work no more than 12 hours a day
  • children are not to work at night
  • two hours schooling each day for children
  • four factory inspectors appointed to enforce the law

IDENTIFY 3 PROBLEMS OF CHILD LABOR THAT THE 1833 LAW WAS TRYING TO SOLVE.

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Extract from a Factory Inspectors report – British Parliamentary Papers (1836) No 353

Transcript

My Lord, in the case of Taylor, Ibbotson & Co.  I took the evidence from the mouths of the boys themselves.  They stated to me that they commenced working on Friday morning, the 27th of May last, at six A.M., and that, with the exception of meal hours and one hour at midnight extra, they did not cease working till four o’clock on Saturday evening, having been two days and a night thus engaged.  Believing the case scarcely possible, I asked every boy the same questions, and from each received the same answers.  I then went into the house to look at the time book, and in the presence of one of the masters, referred to the cruelty of the case, and stated that I should certainly punish it with all the severity in my power.  Mr Rayner, the certificating surgeon of Bastile, was with me at the time.

ACCORDING TO THIS REPORT WHAT ASPECTS OF THE 1833 FACTORY ACT WERE BEING VIOLATED?

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In the period following the publication of the Sadler Report in 1833, Parliament passed a number of reform acts. 

A Timeline of Parliamentary Reform Acts

1833—Factory Act. Passed by the Whig government, this Act was an attempt to regulate the working hours of women and children. It left much to be desired but was a step towards government regulation of working conditions. . . .1844—This Factory Act legislated only for textile factories and was the successor to the 1833 Factory Act. It said that women and young persons (13–18) were to work no more than 12 hours per day; children under 13 were to work no more than 6 1/2 hours per day and no child under 8 was to be employed. . . .1847—Factory Act. Yet another piece of compromise legislation by the Whig government, this so-called ‘10-Hour Act’ said that women and children between the ages of 13 and 18 could work a maximum of ten hours a day or 58 hours a week. The precise times of work were not set down and the ‘relay’ or shift system survived. Working hours for men were left untouched. . . .

BASED ON THE LAWS LISTED ABOVE, HOW DID PARLIAMENT ADDRESS PROBLEMS IN THE WORKPLACE?

WHAT PROBLEMS WERE NOT ADDRESSED IN THESE LAWS?

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Photo of Workers in a Factory (1903)

HOW IS THIS PHOTO EVIDENCE THAT THE 1833 FACTORY ACT WAS NOT ENFORCED?

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Flora Tristan was a 19th-century French activist and a member of the lower working class. In 1843, she wrote The Workers’ Union.

1. Consolidation of the working class by means of a tight, solid, and indissoluble [indivisible] Union.2. Representation of the working class before the nation through a defender chosen and paid by the Workers’ Union, so that the working class’s need to exist and the other classes’ need to accept it become evident.3. Recognition of one’s hands as legitimate property. (In France 25,000,000 proletarians have their hands as their only asset.)4. Recognition of the legitimacy of the right to work for all men and women.5. Recognition of the legitimacy of the right to moral, intellectual, and vocational education for all boys and girls.6. Examination of the possibility of labor organizing in the current social state [social conditions].7. Construction of Workers’ Union palaces [buildings] in every department, in which working-class children would receive intellectual and vocational instruction, and to which the infirm and elderly as well as workers injured on the job would be admitted.8. Recognition of the urgent necessity of giving moral, intellectual, and vocational education to the women of the masses so that they can become the moral agents for the men of the masses.9. Recognition in principle of equal rights for men and women as the sole [only] means of unifying humankind. . . .

Source: Flora Tristan, The Workers’ Union, University of Illinois Press (adapted)

WHAT CHANGES DID FLORA WANT IN THE WORKPLACE FOR MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN?

Writing prompts:

  1. Using evidence from the documents, describe the effects of industrialization.
  2. Based on the documents what attempts were made to reform conditions created by industrialization.

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.

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