Industrial Revolution Housing

Key Facts & Summary

  • The housing sector experienced several changes as a result of the industrial revolution.
  • The rural to urban migration as a result of the industrial revolution created high demand for houses.
  • There was a creation of ghettos where the poor lived.

The expression “industrial revolution” created by Adolphe Blanqui refers to the changes that modified the socio-economic structures of Europe and the United States as early as 1780. In fact, important discoveries revolutionized the nations at that time, spawned transformations at all levels of society and created real progress in many areas. One can thus ask the following question: “In what way did the successive Industrial Revolutions affect housing to make societies evolve, what were their economic and social consequences, were they all positive?

At first, we will, therefore, ask ourselves about the origins of the industrial revolutions: discoveries in time and place and how it transformed the housing sector. Then we will dwell on the way in which they developed (the different inventions and the industrial development) and finally, we will answer the question posed by dealing with its impact on housing and the economic and social consequences.

The Industrial Revolutions were first manifested by the invention of the steam engine by James Watt in 1769. This steam engine required the use of a new energy: the “coal”. In a second time, Etienne Lenoir developed the first gas engine operating on biogas. Soon, other sources of energy were discovered and this is how oil and electricity replaced biogas in combustion engines.

The last wave of discoveries and invention began in the 1970s with the discovery of the atom. The invention of the Internet by Arpanet in 1969 revolutionized the modes of communication in the world. The first computer was invented by Apple in 1977.

There were three Industrial Revolutions; the first, from 1780 to 1880, the second, from 1880 to 1970 and the third from 1970 to today. England was the first to manifest itself as early as 1850. In fact, it had a lot of coal deposits, a great technological advancement, and an available workforce.

England was until 1885 the first world industrial nation. France and Belgium underwent a slow evolution until 1830. The United States, meanwhile, was not slow to follow the English model. Germany did not start its industrialization until 1840/45. Japan began to industrialize in 1854. As a result, we found that in 1914, before the First World War, except for the United States and Japan, all the industrialized countries were European.

The invention of the steam engine proved to be one of the most important inventions in the industrial revolution. The steam engine led to the manufacture of the steam locomotive. The rise of the locomotive made it possible to build several railroads in the world. Thus, between 1850 and 1914, 35,000 km of railways were moved to 1,000,000 km.

Other inventions were born, the Bessemer Converter in 1856, the hydroelectric dams, the first of which was built in France in 1869, the telephone created by Bell in the United States in 1876 which made it easy to communicate worldwide as well as the computer, which appeared a century later (1977).

Industrialization is linked to several sectors and the successive Industrial Revolutions had a significant impact on industrial development and completely transformed the global economic landscape over time. In fact, the mining and mining industries, mainly the iron and coal mines, began to grow in the late eighteenth century.

Several countries in the world have been influenced by the industrial revolution in one way or another. The industrial cities of Britain experienced growth during the revolution. Cities in search of work were massively receiving people from the countryside. After finding a job, their second priority was to find a place to live. Social classes have defined the specific conditions and places from which people have lived.

The wealthy had their own neighbourhoods in every European city and the proletarians (the poorest class) lived in ghettos. The housing conditions of the poor were deplorable compared to those of the middle class. Many people lived in one room that was unsafe. Anyone could enter their house. Due to the fact that there was no public transport, the workers had to live near their work. Crafters and mechanics had the best standard of living, leaving workers to live in overcrowded conditions

The Industrial Revolution is still a subject of vast historical debate about origins, evolution, growth, and ultimate outcomes. What the industrial revolution did was nothing less than a structural change in the economic organization of English and European society. In other words, England and the United States have experienced the transition from a traditional agricultural society to one of an industrial economy based on capitalist methods.

The result of these developments was a period of high productivity and low prices for food. This meant that the typical English family did not have to spend almost everything they got on money for bread and could buy manufactured goods. Thus, during the revolution, there was the appearance of department stores with a lot of merchandise and customer service. Transportation has also developed and many canals have been dug as well as steamboats.

Although the changes and developments in the industry were notable, the speed at which they occurred has led to labour consequences. In 1850, there were more agricultural workers than workers: 272,000 women were exploited in cotton factories and the demand for new jobs that encouraged artisanal and traditional production. So, women and children worked as workers under poor working conditions and insufficient wages

Housing in Europe since the Industrial Revolution

The issue of housing becomes a political and social concern with the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century.

Housing: a deeply political and social issue? Since the beginning of the 19th century in Europe, the history of housing has undergone tremendous upheavals. It has even become a major concern of the Europeans since the industrial revolution.


At that time, the rural exodus brought new populations to the cities. The urban heritage of medieval and modern times is no longer suitable in terms of area and circulation. Where the medieval cities responded to a need to protect themselves from an external enemy, the city of the Industrial Revolution needs openings.

But this rural exodus, the medieval city is very far from being prepared. That’s when the word “slums” appears. In saturated city centres it is not uncommon to see cellars or stairwells furnished, or even benches rented for the night. Housing conditions with high mortality, health and living conditions are closely linked.


But the nineteenth century is also the century of economic liberalism. To increase the productivity of their employees, some bosses, including Catholic and Protestant patrons, have built housing for housing. Because a worker who sleeps badly is less efficient. It is the birth of the workers’ cities.

Social transformations

The demographic explosion

The countries that experienced the industrial revolution have also all undergone demographic changes, the most important of which is the demographic transition. Human progress is characterized by the scarcity of famines and the best treatment of epidemics, sometimes combined with a temporary absence of war, especially in the nineteenth century (discovery of the bacillus of tuberculosis by Robert Koch in 1882, a vaccine against rabies Louis Pasteur in 1885).

This growth favours the rural exodus and a large emigration. Large-scale migrations affect the whole of Europe. Populations are moving from eastern and southern Europe to the more industrial northwest. Population growth is accompanied by increasing urbanization (United Kingdoms 54% urban in 1851), with the hands of agricultural works that become employees in factories. The rural population, attracted by urban jobs declines and the threshold of 50% of city dwellers is crossed in all industrial countries between 1850 and 1940. This population galloping in the city creates significant social problems.

The Emergence of social classes

Urban elites with the financial and industrial wealthy. It has economic and political power and is gradually replacing the nobility that no longer dominates society. (wealthy minorities holding industries and banks).

working class. More and more workers were going from homework to factory work, becoming aware of belonging to a class, that of the proletarians. These workers performed difficult tasks, lived in ghettos and were often poorly paid and exploited by the middle classes. This diversified class: artisans, employees, civil servants, liberal professions were grouped around common values. They were also the average and the petty wealth.

Political and cultural transformations

On the political plan

The political transformations of society following economic liberalism that favours free enterprise and free trade. In politics, liberalism advocates individual freedom to allow the harmonious development of society. Monarchical regimes dominate, but liberal democracy progresses from 1850 to 1914. This prevails in 1914 in the North and West of Europe. Its progress is favoured by the extension of the right to vote, the development of education, the freedom of the press, political parties and trade unions. Industrialization has been accompanied by a process of democratization favoured by economic growth.

Architecture: use of iron and glazed materials appear, with new architectural forms. The skyscrapers are a new architectural design.