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6.8 19th Century Social Reform Movements




⏱️  2 min read

written by

Sharii Liang

sharii liang

May 12, 2020

Industrialization was beginning to take its toll on the people, especially those in the working class and cities. Uneducated workers, male and female, suffered in grueling conditions with extremely low pay and cruel treatment. Moral issues were raised about the institution of slavery, serfdom, and even alcohol!

🎥 Watch: AP Europe - Industrial Revolution

Cannot Ignore These Problems

In response to the treatment of workers, multiple trade unions and movements arose to push for social and economic changes. In 1834, the first trade union was created in England. Known as the Great Trade Union, it was a mix of workers in various trades that sought basic reforms: better wages, fewer hours, and the regulation of child labor. 💵

Movements for Rights and Reform

Poverty and a lack of general education were rampant in the cities, especially when it came to children. To counter this, various social movements, usually religious, popped up to fix the problem despite having no government support. Some blamed alcohol as the source of the working class’ woes and focused on temperance. 🍺🙅

In various parts of the world, slavery and serfdom still existed. The institutions had become a moral issue, and abolishing them seemed to be the morally righteous route. Religious groups began to advocate for the abolition of slavery in England’s numerous colonies.

Don’t forget that women played an important role in the Industrial Revolution similar to that of men. They were some of the most vocal and active advocates for social reform. This caused an increased demand for universal male and female suffrage. 👩🏻‍🤝‍👨🏽

Politics and Parties

Trade unions and social movements soon evolved into mass political parties representing a specific subset of people. These groups now had an impact on politics due to a large amount of supporters from the working class. 

The peoples’ increased participation led to the rise of mass politics. In many countries, a divide could be seen in the political affiliations of various economic classes. Some examples of this divide could be seen in England and France with conservatives and liberals in Great Britain and conservatives and socialists in France.

🎥 Watch: AP European History - Conservatism, Liberalism and Nationalism

Some parties that were solely focused on representing a particular type of person included the German Social Democratic Party, the British Labour Party, and the Russian Social Democratic Party. These parties were all about the workers and their rights. One party devoted specifically to women’s rights was the British Women’s Social and Political Union. 🗳️

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