The Industrial Revolution caused the greatest mass migration from rural areas to urban centers that the world has ever seen. As jobs quickly shifted from agricultural to manufacturing, people migrated by the hundreds of thousands to cities. In London alone, more than 1.7 million migrated to the city between the years of 1815 and 1860, more than doubling the population of London. However, despite the booming economy, only so many jobs were available causing many people to be unemployed. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, England had “Poor Laws” which provided clothing, shelter, and food to those who were elderly and couldn’t work or those who needed economic support for short periods of time. However, the combination of an influx of people, shortages of jobs, and unwillingness of people to pay higher taxes to help support the poor led to a social change involving the poor people of London during the 1830’s.
The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was a social change that came directly as a result of the Industrial Revolution in London. Instead of acting as a fair welfare system in which the government would aid all of those in need, the law now required those in need of financial support to go to a “workhouse.” Here, families and individuals, who were sick and elderly, were split up depending upon ability and forced to work for periods of time in order to receive food and clothing. Also, the workhouses had quite horrendous conditions, so only people who were in dire need of help would go to workhouses.
These changes in the short term caused immediate changes amongst the lower class, as it motivated the people who could indeed find work to become a part of the working class. However, eventually the law was deemed unfair as it was unfair and fatal to some. Then, this controversy eventually caused England to, again, reevaluate how it dealt with issues such as the poor.