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Common Jobs During the Industrial Revolution

Updated April 17, 2017

The industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries saw many sea changes in farming, agriculture and manufacturing. It began in the United Kingdom but worked its way over to the United States. It was preceded by the agricultural revolution, which was the creation of new technology for farming. As a result, there was less demand for farming jobs, and many farmers moved to the city seeking jobs in factories and manufacturing. Despite a major boom in the likes of coal and cotton, the period was also known for its substandard living and working conditions.

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Coal Mining

The industrial revolution saw a huge increase in coal demand. As a result, there were many coal mining jobs available. This work was both dangerous and unhealthy. Shafts were initially narrow, poorly ventilated and highly flammable. The coal was carried through the mines in baskets and pulled up a vertical shaft. As a result, the process was slow, and miners often spent long periods of time underground. Child labour was a problem, and young children often ended up working in the mines carrying coal and opening trap doors.

Factory Work

The period was renowned for the growth of factories, and a number of factory jobs became available. Conditions were usually dirty, hot and cramped. Factory work was particularly synonymous with child labour, with young workers often operating dangerous and unguarded machinery. The experience acted as a type of "hard schooling" for children, where they would be forced to obey orders to avoid the hazards of the factory.

Cotton Mills

The textile industry saw a boom period during the industrial revolution. Cotton mills were common in Greater Manchester, England, and the New England region of the United States. Workers would use textile machinery to spin yarn and weave cloth, and would often be paid by how much work they did. Weavers and spinners would work around 14 hours per day in harsh conditions. Like many other jobs in the industrial revolution women and children were also subjected to the harsh environment, and child labour was prominent.

Canal Work

Due to the large amounts of new heavy machinery, canals became very important during the industrial revolution. Canals were man-made to help transport these heavy goods and one barge could carry nearly 40 tons of weight. They were normally built by designers and engineers, as opposed to unskilled labourers. The first canal of the industrial revolution was the Bridgewater Canal in the United Kingdom. Built by James Brindley, it was initially built to transport coal to Manchester.

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About the Author

Oliver Mintz-Lowe has been a journalist since 2005. He has written content for BBC local radio programs and news bulletins. Mintz-Lowe received a Master of Arts in multimedia journalism from Bournemouth University.

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