I am doing some research for school and I was wondering what was the percentage of British people during the industrial revolution (The 1760 to 1840 period) were rich? By 'rich' I mean a person that owned a house and was employing 2 or more employees/servants. I tried searching Google but I didn't get an answer

  • @KorvinStarmast Sorry for being unclear, what I mean is a person who has a house and is employing two or more employees. Nov 22, 2016 at 19:28
  • @KorvinStarmast I've now edited it. I appreciate your help! Nov 22, 2016 at 19:32
  • Very few people employed two employees, unless you mean servants.
    – MCW
    Nov 22, 2016 at 19:36
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    Which country are you asking about? Nov 22, 2016 at 19:53
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    @KillingTime Ahh! I thought I put that in my question! I mean British, I've edited my question now! Nov 22, 2016 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


If you're willing to accept a snapshot of British society in the later part of the period, then you can reference the table given here which was taken from A Treatise on the wealth, power and resources of the British Empire (1814).

While the data covers the whole of the British Empire (of the time), I would presume that the social stratification would be fairly uniform. So the percentage of rich to poor would be roughly the same for the British Isles as it would for the empire as a whole.

Taking the given definition of 'rich' being any free holder with a couple of staff, which would roughly correspond to the fifth class and above (I've ignored those in military service), we would get;

Rich - 4,316,110
Poor - 24,958,603

Which gives us an answer for 'rich' people of about 14% of the population.

  • I would take "freeholder with a couple of domestic staff" to more likely be fourth-class and above, which would then be roughly 4.5% of the population (or about 1.5MM of a total population about 29MM). Which interpretation OP actually intends is of course up to him. Nov 22, 2016 at 22:43
  • Sounds about right. The standard of living for everyone surged in Great Britain during the Industrial Revolution. Since so many were leaving for "the Colonies" labor was in short supply too leading to a tremendous amount of conflict on the Home Island...and with the "Colonists." Nov 23, 2016 at 0:03
  • disagree standard of living wages experience was catchy in time and region, and if standard of living was surging why we're so many leaving for the coolonies
    – pugsville
    Nov 24, 2016 at 6:38
  • I have not looked at the document, but your presumption that the social stratification "would be fairly uniform" throughout the British Empire of the time, I suggest, would be well wide of the mark, especially if you are including places like India. Your figures must surely just relate to Britain, where the population would have been roughly 24 million in 1840, having doubled from where it was 50 years earlier.
    – WS2
    Nov 25, 2016 at 13:37
  • @WS2 The source document was written in 1814 and it gives a population for Britain of 12.35 million (England, Scotland and Wales for 1811) with an additional 4.5 million in Ireland. So clearly the over 29 million in the table cannot be just the population of Britain. My assumption is that it covers just British citizens throughout the empire without including any native populations (the appendix notes a native Indian population of at least 40 million at the time), which is why I felt I could make the presumption of social uniformity.
    – Steve Bird
    Nov 25, 2016 at 15:28

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