I've read that during the Industrial Revolution many workers abandoned their jobs as farmers or artisans to sell their labor to the new industrialists. The factory jobs were exhausting and the quality of life of these workers was not particularly good.

My question is: why did the workers submit to these conditions?

I know there were syndicates and riots, but when these manifestations of the working class discontent began to appear, the capitalist system was already well established in England's society. Am I wrong to wonder why former farm laborers were willing to take such jobs? Why did they do so?

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    Yes, you're wrong :-) Or it might be more accurate to say that you're "not even wrong" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong ). Then, as now, people take jobs because it's the best they can get. If you can have a better life ('better' being both subjective and relative) working in a factory than as a peasant, then that's what you do. – jamesqf Jan 16 '17 at 18:20
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    Check primary sources - BBC history magazine has published some collections of primary source letters from the workers themselves. They were thrilled to be off the farm and only working 12 hours a day. – Mark C. Wallace Jan 16 '17 at 20:12
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    Words like "submission", repetition of unsourced mythology and a general lack of research lead me to suspect that this "question" is actually a political rant in disguise. – Mark C. Wallace Jan 16 '17 at 20:14
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    Compare with enclosure, which was going on in England at the same time. – T.E.D. Jan 16 '17 at 20:26
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    @T.E.D. yep, I was going to say that. OP, remember that your idea of factories as soul crushing assembly lines was only fully correct for a short period in history, between about 1850 and 1980. Before 1850, most "factory" jobs were not standing in one place doing a simple and repetitive task. The job often required physical exertion, creative skill, or both. The latter has returned to manufacturing somewhat after c.1980. – Ne Mo Jan 17 '17 at 14:13

Workers left the land and headed for the towns and cities for the same reason as the Chinese are doing it now. They believed that there were opportunities available and a chance to improve their lives. Agricultural work has always been the lowest paid work available, frequently subject to economic depression and the onset of labour saving devices. Industrial work offered to break the link between the worker, the landed elite and the status quo.

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    and now as then small farmers tend to be dirt poor, work 20 hours a day 7 days a week, and often are (paradoxically) suffering from famine because their entire production ends up taken from them by land owners so they don't even have the food to feed themselves. Far better to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, in a factory, for a guaranteed income that will at least pay the rent and 2 meals a day for you and your family. – jwenting Jan 18 '17 at 9:32
  • The new poor law's in England in the early 1800 removed the earlier social responsibilities on the parishes. Instead : do you want assistance ? There is a work house over there ! Long days for everyone in your family and little food ? Are you an insurgent ? To Australia with you. The 1820's laws in Britain was far more repressive than those of medieval Britain. – Stefan Skoglund Feb 1 '20 at 11:51

Because many workers were still better off working in the factories during the Industrial Revolution, than on farms.

Your premise is probably correct as it related to yeoman farmers, the minority of farmers that owned their own land and tools, and set their own hours. But many "farmers" were landless, wandering peasants who worked for low wages, and only during the farming season. Think of today's migrant workers. They had to struggle to survive during the winter months. Many did not.

Factory work was "steady" in the sense of being "year-round," and therefore paid better overall. And while "submission" was required, it was no greater than was required on the farm.


The lower class during the Industrial Revolution had a bad quality of life no matter their occupation. As agriculturists there was no true profit- most of the time, everything you had was used to feed your family. As factory workers you might make more money, but you wouldn’t have assurance of work all the time and you would be subject to horrendous working conditions. Many of the lower class migrated to the city because they simply thought they would prefer urban life to rural life.

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    the statement "most of the time, everything you had was used to feed your family" is immediately disproved by the existence of cites. Cities can only exist when there is sufficient agricultural surplus that farmers are better off by selling than reatining said surplus. – Pieter Geerkens Feb 1 '20 at 1:06
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    @PieterGeerkens Good point. Sorry. – Micah Lindley Feb 1 '20 at 1:47
  • @PieterGeerkens the import of food stuff from the colonies allowed the farmers (and the large estates) to convert into more lucrative and less work-intensive production, for example rearing cattle. This meant that the cottage people ie people living in cottages on someone others soil didn't have neither work or a cottage. – Stefan Skoglund Feb 1 '20 at 11:55
  • @StefanSkoglund: If true, demonstrate it. It certainly was not true between 1815 and 1846 while the Corn Laws ere in force. – Pieter Geerkens Feb 1 '20 at 12:00

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