Growth of population, wealth and poverty
The transformation of British society in the 19th century were profound.
At the beginning of the century population in Great Britain was 10,5 million and at the end of the century it was 37 million.
The population was growing. Overcrowding was a big problem
Industrialization had caused the migration of masses of people from the countryside to towns, but it was difficult to feed them, to house them, to control them, to wash them and to care for them.
The city was synonymous with dirt, disease, smells and noises.
The industries and the density of population were the worst problems. The expansion of the industrial system brought many material benefits and much wealth to a minority of the population. But a lot of people didn’t have the basic needs to survive. Women and children were still exploited, the working life began at an early age and continued until their old age.
The urban habitat
The poor lived in slums, quarters characterized by disease and crime. Working-class housing had no access to water, no lighting, no paving. The death rate was high and the terrible working conditions in polluted atmospheres had a disastrous effect especially on children’s health: poor eyesight, lung disease, industrial accidents.
In the workhouse, husbands and wives were separated from each other and from their children. If, by chance, they ate at nearby tables in the hall, it was forbidden to communicate. Also very young children had to eat poor meals in silence.