The Industrial Revolution

A period of great development in almost all aspects of life, the Industrial Revolution was an event that has shaped the world we live in today. During the period from the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries, a great boom of manufacture occurred in Britain and spread to other countries. New technology enabled greater production than ever before. The invention and perfection of the steam engine gave mills and factories a power-source beyond wind or water, freeing them from geographical limitations. Other inventions perfected manufacture in other fields, as well as creating new ones. Population had been increasing at a rate of 1% per decade from 1100 to 1700, but increased 10% per decade from 1700 to 1900, corresponding roughly to the Industrial Revolution. Many agree that the Industrial revolution improved nearly everyone’s way of life. However, the standard of living during the Industrial Revolution has been a subject of debate. According to Nicholas F.R. Crafts, the real income per capita doubled in England between 1760 and 1860, and the income of the lowest 65% increased by over 70%, a substantial increase to be sure. Some argue that the movements of reform during that period were due to a worsening of conditions, but in reality there was previously no choice but to live in poverty. The Revolution offered a chance for people to improve their fortunes, and consequently be jealous of others’. Today the debate largely concerns when the standard of living increased, not if it did. The pessimists believed that it only increased after the 1840s or 50s, while the optimists are of the opinion that it started earlier in the 1810s or 20s. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that the Industrial Revolution profoundly affected the society we live in, and has improved the standard of living for many people.

Mary Wollstonecraft

In the Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote that the educational system for women was flawed, and consequently detrimental to the way women behaved. She considered the disposition of women in her time to be frivolous and petty, and believed that the way they acted was far beneath their dignity. She wanted women to have equal educational opportunities along with men, and criticized men for being “more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers.” She did not want women to concern themselves chiefly with inspiring love and desire in men, but in improving their own virtues. Wollstonecraft was not disparaging of the matriarchal position of women (as the later feminists were), but believed that women needed to be properly educated in order to raise their children up virtuously. She wanted greater educational opportunities for women so that they could live up to their full potential.