DBQ 6: How did the fundamental changes of the 18th and early 19th century European economy affect the standards of living for the urban and rural working classes?

Essay by soma123High School, 12th gradeA-, February 2009

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Before the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the economy of many nations was based on the cottage-industry and the putting-out system. However after the 17th century, people revolutionized the energy potential of a man by inventing the steam engine. This machine allowed for an explosion of growth in cities throughout Europe. Also, the introduction of laissez-fare capitalism was beginning to be adopted by many governments giving an unjust power to the wealthy in control of their employees. As a result of this new technology and economical revolution, certain fundamental changes had a negative impact on the standards of living for the urban and rural working classes.

These fundamental changes that negatively impacted the working classes came in the form of social, economic, and political shifts.

Beginning in the 18th century, the nations of Europe saw an exponential growth in population, as pictured in Document 1. This population explosion put not only a strain on food sources, but it gave the industrialists the cheap labor source they needed to operate their factories.

On the other hand, as a result of these growing industrialists and the migration of rural people to urban society, the profitability of the cottage industry decreased. This decrease in the cottage industry led to disintegration of the family unit since families were no longer working side-by-side and women weren't learning domestic skills that were taught in rural households, as proposed by Document 4. These factors subsequently caused a decrease in living standards of the working classes.

Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith was the father of laissez-faire capitalism. This form of capitalism opposed the idea of mercantilism. However, laissez-faire capitalism was appealing to many emerging political industrialists since it allowing factory owners to impose almost any circumstance on their employees without governmental interference. This ideology allowed for...