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Essay Two: A

Summary of Class
& Common
Interest
World History II Professor Marks
3/30/2015

Auriell Frederick

Essay Two: A Summary of Class and Common Interest
The assigned essay, Class and Common Interest by R.J. Morris, published May 1983,
explores topics relative to the British Industrial Revolution particularly emphasizing the
dichotomy between class and power (p. 31).
This paper serves to summarize the essay, Class and Common Interest, while explaining
the major significance of the Industrial Revolution within Britain society including the effects of
social consciousness in class society, and the manner in which industrialization effected the
standards of living among the British.
The major significances of the Industrial Revolution of Great Britain were the simultaneous
increase of wealth, capitalism, and new inventions and methods of production to meet the new
opportunities of foreign trade. The rapid and unbalanced transition of growth resulted in conflicts
between the working class and the elite class, primarily caused by imposed, unrealistic production
quotas, unfair distribution of goods, and incommensurate wages.
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, new technologies and methodologies for
production changed the ways in which people worked; however, the changes which increased
production several fold did not improve working conditions. To the contrary, people worked
longer hours in unsafe conditions and were paid very little. Women, men and children were
forced to work and to live in squalid conditions with few if any opportunities for better
outcomes.
Labor and capital became problematic when workers transitioned from cottage type
industries to participate in mass production industry. Reorganization and specialization of labor
resulted in the demand of highly skilled labor as production could be broken down into repetitive
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mundane tasks that unskilled men, women, and even children, could perform with a minimum of
skill development. Current technology was neither requisite nor developed to improve worker
conditions, but to increase output. Increased need raw materials for production resulted in an
increased number of labor-intensive jobs with meager wages (p. 34).
The ruling class failed to provide adequate food for the working class as Britain began
participating in increased foreign trade, and exporting food. Britain. Often Britain’s insufficient
grain stores failed to feed the working class population. This resulted in very poor diets and
malnutrition (p 34).
Exports of cloth and textiles were traded to foreign markets which frequently fluctuated
due to war and other factors in turn causing uneven demand for labor force. Workplace
relationships deteriorated: employers lacked compassion, ignored safety, and had little regard for
the welfare of their workers. Beatings, harsh discipline, long hours, fines, and threat of
dismissals caused worker discord, rebellions, and riots. The elite and manufacturing classes
maintained control through brutality in the workplace. Violence against the ruling class and
manufacturers were common place (p 35).
The exponentially expanding working class was comprised of poor individuals who had
little voice in government or control of their working lives, whereas the ruling class controlled
the populace, which created great disparity between classes. Demonstrations, riots and uprisings
against the gross mistreatment, including squalid living conditions and abuse of laborers to meet
workplace production demands resulted in slow increase of social consciousness by the elite
classes. (p. 33).

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The disparity between classes broadened. This socioeconomic divide catalyzed political
change, influenced by French and American revolutions. Additionally, Thomas Pain’s Part One:
The Rights of Man encouraged workers to ask for workplace fairness. Cultural and social
consciousness progressed from reactive dissatisfaction to a proactive stance which eventually
gave rise to unions; however, unions were generally ineffective in the changing poor living and
working standards for the working poor, or giving voice to the largest class of Britain. The
wealthy and ruling classes maintained the status quo to ensure continuing profits for themselves.
Finally in the early 20th Century, the working class forged a coherent labor movement and gained
representation in the British Parliament (p.35).

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References
Morris, R. (1983). Class and Common Interest. In The Industrial Revolution (pp. 31-35). History Today Ltd.

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