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Chadwick’s and Ure’s Views on the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain


In 18 century, Great Britain experienced the industrial revolution due to physicomechanical science’s advancements. In factories, employers started to launch various machines to complete the same tasks as previously but more quickly and require less involvement of workers’ physical power. However, such manufacturers had problems related to the sanitary environment, which led to the spread of diseases and various epidemics.

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In this paper, the works of two prominent personalities in Great Britain will be discussed and contrasted regarding their attitude toward the industrial revolution and its consequences. These people are Edwin Chadwick, an English economist, and Andrew Ure, a Scottish physician; they are very different in their perception of manufacturers’ work. This paper argues that both views complement each other and have a right to exist because they focus on the opposite sides of the same phenomenon: inappropriate sanitary conditions and the advantages of machinery work.

Edwin Chadwick’s Report on Sanitary Conditions

At the end of the 18th century, after the industrial revolution began to exploit Great Britain, the number of people living in cities had begun to increase extremely. That is why new approaches to health protection were required to be applied in fighting and preventing diseases. Living in those times, Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890), an English economist who had an education as a lawyer, studied the living conditions of London’s population. During his life, he had taken an active part in the Poor Law and factory legislation reform, trying to make working conditions better than they were in those times. Edin Chadwick had also become a secretary to a commission investigating sanitary conditions and means of improving them and wrote one of the most prominent reports of that epoch, called “Chadwick’s report on sanitary conditions.”

In the report on sanitary conditions, Chadwick, being a son of a journalist, firstly draws attention to the causes of disease and various microorganisms in the water and everywhere in workplaces. He claims that diseases and different pandemics make attacks on workers with a high frequency and are always connected with the physical circumstances of performed activity. Then, Chadwick (para. 8) emphasizes the impact of unacceptable sanitary conditions: “the annual loss of life from filth and bad ventilation are greater than the loss from death or wounds in any wars in which the country has been engaged in modern times.”

In other words, the economist, by implying statistics on the annual number of deaths, proves his claim about the dangerous consequences of inappropriate sanitary conditions in working places. Chadwick also emphasizes that these sanitary conditions affect the people living in overcrowded homes, in which the diseases can spread very quickly and harm both men and women.

Following the description of dangerous consequences and relationships between unacceptable working conditions with the spread of diseases and deaths caused by them, Chadwick discusses how to improve the sanitary environment. He suggests that to improve the situation and prolong employees’ lives, proper cleansing, better ventilation, and other means of making the air fresher and cleaner are required.

Moreover, the author (para. 19) claims: “That the expense of public drainage, of supplies of water laid on in houses, and of means of improved cleansing would be a pecuniary gain, by diminishing the existing charges attendant on sickness and premature mortality.” By this, Chadwick tries to highlight that human life is more valuable than any money spent on improving public drainage, water laid, and other stuff. During the report, he also emphasizes the importance of the laboring class and the working conditions that kill its representatives. Chadwick sincerely seeks to improve the situation and suggest real ways to solve existing problems.

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Andrew Ure’s Philosophy of Manufactures

Andrew Ure (1778-1857) was a Scottish physician and a founder of the Andersonian Institution. During his life, he worked as a consulting chemist, geologist, and even business theorist. From the very beginning, Ure writes about the wealthiness of the development of factories in Great Britain, paying attention to the way how foreign nations perceive and admire manufacturers there. Ure (6) claims: “This island is pre-eminent among civilized nations for the prodigious development of its factory wealth, and has been therefore long viewed with a jealous admiration by foreign powers.”

Based on this claim, it is obvious that Ure’s statements contradict Chadwick’s report very highly because they pay attention only to the good characteristics of Great Britain’s manufacturers. Moreover, Ure sees such factories as a source of power in the eyes of foreign nations. Then, Ure says that those people, especially famous ones, are criticizing working and sanitary conditions only because they are jealous that Great Britain (ancient order) suddenly gained political importance because of the industrial revolution.

Despite the fact that Ure’s “The philosophy of manufactures” was created in 1835, before Chadwick’s report of 1843, one may think that Ure addresses Chadwick’s work and claims that he is jealous of the state’s power. Moreover, Ure (6) says: “In the recent discussions concerning our factories, no circumstance is so deserving of remark, as the gross ignorance evinced by our leading legislators and economists….” In other words, he not only said that those people who criticize manufacturers are jealous because of political power, but he also claimed that such people are ignorant and literally do not have the right to be leading economists and legislators. It is worth mentioning one more time that Edwin Chadwick initiated the reformation of the Poor Law.

In his writing, Ure focuses on the advantages of manufacturing and physicomechanical science’ inventions and advancements. For instance, the author (7) describes that in a factory, a machine procures for a worker “good, unfailing wages, besides a healthy workshop gratis,” and contrasts this to a nonfactory production, in which a worker earns “proportionally low wages, while he loses his health by poor diet and the dampness of his hovel.” In these statements, Ure compares two work styles: in a factory and a nonfactory: the author considered only the advantages of machinery work, paying attention to growing wages and a more safe environment for people’s health.

Finally, Ure considers it manufactures not as units, in which there might be achievements and problems, but as a single mechanical system, having machines themselves more important than people. To illustrate this point, one can drive a citation: “By the infirmity of human nature it happens, that the more skillful the workman, the more self-willed and intractable he is apt to become, and, of course, the less fit a component of a mechanical system, in which, by occasional irregularities, he may do great damage to the whole” (Ure 20-22).

In other words, Ure considers people as accompanied by machines, which do all the work on their own and help workers to earn money. The author says that humans are infirm by their nature, and becoming self-willed may only harm the process of production. This means that Ure rejects any creativity in a workplace and sees a person as a distraction whose aim is to help machines work correctly. Moreover, Ure did not pay any attention to potential sanitary issues as people have enough advantages already: more wages for less physical work.


Ure compares the situation with advanced inventions with the past, in which there were no machines to do work for people. At the same time, Chadwick compares the case of inappropriate sanitary conditions with the potential future, in which the working environment can be even better. Therefore, one cannot claim that one view is the most accurate and the other cannot exist; on the contrary, these views focus on different sides of a single coin. Thus, considering the advantages that labor people started to have due to the industrial revolution, as Ure did, is the right point of view, and Chadwick’s focus on potential improvements aiming at saving people’s lives.

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However, Ure’s writing can be criticized more because of his claims about the “ignorant” economist and legislators: he does not allow an opinion that is different from his to exist. Chadwick did not criticize those who praised the industrial revolution, and he did not himself make any statements against it. In summing up, by combining these two opposite views in one,, it will be possible to analyze manufacturers from both sides, paying attention to their advantages and weak points that future interventions should improve.

Works Cited

Chadwick, Edwin. Chadwick’s Report on Sanitary Conditions. The Victorian Web, 1843. Web.

Ure, Andrew. The Philosophy of Manufactures. Routledge, 2013.

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