A summary of everyday life in the Industrial Era

Pyramid class structure with many working class at the bottom, fewer middle class in the middle, and even fewer upper class at the top.

British people in the 19th century were often aware that they were living in a revolutionary age. They were excited by their world. Britannia 'ruled the waves' and they were surrounded by change.

The Industrial Revolution brought factories, mines and machinery. Towns grew rapidly and with them came slums as well as elegant city centres. Steam trains and the Royal Mail made communication easier. There were massive advances in medicine and public health. Political and social reforms changed people's lives and at a personal level, there were lots of little developments from umbrellas to bicycles.

Interior of an English factory, Late 18th century during the Industrial Revolution.
Steam engine workshop

The Victorian age was a time of confidence. The Victorians thought that, even if their society was not yet perfect, they were just about to achieve perfection. They believed in self-help, and emphasised strict morals.

By 1851, British society had become divided into social classes:

  • The aristocracy were powerful and wealthy.
  • The middle-class, who ran the businesses, were ambitious and growing in wealth.
  • The poor - in the villages, in the towns and working as servants in the homes of the rich – were very poor.

By 1900 the class system remained, but it was beginning to break apart:

  • The aristocracy had lost their power over Parliament and some were beginning to experience financial problems.
  • Middle-class businessmen were facing competition from Germany and America.
  • The working-class were beginning to grow in prosperity and influence.