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Hard Times - The Theme of the Utilitarianism

Uploaded by KittyKatz on Jun 12, 2002

Historical Background


The late 18th and early 19th centuries were an era of great change in Europe. The Industrial revolution happened in many countries, but was initially focused on Britain. The Industrial Revolution centered on the production of iron and the steam engine. Later, railways and increasingly mechanized forms of manufacturing would develop. The urban population increased rapidly and cities were transformed into centers of industrial production. They became overcrowded, as people moved from rural areas. A combination of coal-fired stoves and poor sanitation made the air heavy and foul-smelling. Immense amounts of raw sewage was dumped straight into the Thames River in London. Even Royals were not immune from the stench - when Queen Victoria occupied Buckingham Palace her apartments were ventilated through the common sewers, a fact that was not disclosed until some 40 years later.

For all the economic expansion of the Industrial Revolution, living conditions among many of the workers and the poor were appalling. Children as young as five were often set to work begging or sweeping chimneys. It was not uncommon for employers to use children as cheap labour. For some women, industrialisation meant independence, but for the majority, it meant the necessity of being employed and enduring the hardships of dreadful working conditions. Women were often subjugated. Even though their productive efficiency was only slightly lower than that of men (especially with the invention of machines), their wages were often only one third of that earned by men. Men assumed superiority over women.

The working and living conditions were often atrocious. Working days were long, and wages low, as employers often exploited their workers and increased their profits by lowering the cost of production by paying meagre wages and neglecting pollution control. Safety measures were often ignored and workers were put out of jobs by the introduction of machines that created a surplus of labour. The rate of accidents was very high. A handicapped worker was doomed to extreme poverty, as there were no social security or insurance payments. The New Poor Law of 1834 was based on the "principle of less eligibility," which stipulated that the condition of the "able-bodied pauper" on relief (it did not apply to the sick, aged, or children) be less "eligible"—that is, less desirable, less favorable—than the condition of the independent laborer. This reasoning was absolutely correct from the scientific and the Utilitarian point of view, but it rejected any...

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Uploaded by:   KittyKatz

Date:   06/12/2002

Category:   Literature

Length:   16 pages (3,557 words)

Views:   2367

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