Standard of Living in 19th century Britain Argumentative Essay by bigbug

Standard of Living in 19th century Britain
An exploration of the debate whether British people experienced a better standard of living in 1865 than in 1815.
# 117507 | 2,691 words | 18 sources | MLA | 2009 | GB
Published on Dec 06, 2009 in History (British)

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The paper focuses on the working class in Britain during the period 1815-1865 and argues that although an increase in such quantitative measures such as real wages and real incomes occurred throughout this period, the distribution of this wealth and economic growth is less clearly defined and the damaging effects of short term trade cycles and unemployment negated the majority of these gains. The paper examines recent research that shows how the health threatening effects of the unsanitary conditions created in the overcrowded, mushrooming, urbanized cities overwhelmed any benefits to be derived by the working classes from higher wages and incomes. The paper reaches the conclusion that people were better off in 1865 than they were in 1815 but only if they were lucky enough to survive the period 1820 to 1850.

From the Paper:

"In answer to the question 'were people better off in 1865 than they were in 1815' then arguably they were. The British working classes were earning more, consuming more, eating more nutritional diets, living longer, dying less, and working shorter hours. Sophisticated methods of historical economic research have 'seemingly' proved what Clapham and succeeding optimists argued all along. However, with the introduction into the debate of anthropometric history a new, and arguably more interesting question arises with regards to the price paid by the working class for progress, and is one, which gives greater credence to contemporary sources of the time. Why, if real wages and real incomes were rising and, prices were falling, did the population's height decline?"

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Best,G. Mid Victorian Britain Fontana Press: London 1979
  • Crafts, N.F.R British Economic Growth during the Industrial Revolution Claredon Press: Oxford 1985
  • Deane, P The First Industrial Revolution Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1965
  • Engels, F. The Conditions of the Working Class in England Penguin Books: London 1987
  • Evans, E.J. The Forging of the Modern State: Early Industrial Britain 1783-1870 Longman: London 1996

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