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My North & South Anniversary 4/7. The Dying Man and the Industrial Machine

You can read about the Victorian wedding here.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the living conditions in Manchester during the Industrial Revolution were harsh.

The death rate was related to wealth, with the poor living the shortest.

There was a chronic lack of hygiene, minimal knowledge of sanitary care, and little awareness about how illnesses spread, let alone how to cure them.

Diseases such as cholera, typhoid and typhus were devastating to the population of the overcrowded city, and the bigger the population, the worse the problem got.

Accidents occured in many mills and factories, with fire and machine malfunction being a major cause of death.

Respiratory problems caused by pollution and working in cotton mills, as well lung diseases like TB contributed to te high death rate.

The working conditions were as atrocious as their living ones, and the workers diet was poor.

Malnutrition was seen as a cause of lower immunity, and therefore a cause of many illnesses.

Every time I watch North & South, the sight of those pig heads parked on the street make me shudder.

Then I noticed some more meat on the streets of Milton, when Mr. Thornton was passing by.

This time is was an unusual display of chickens hanging by their feel, no doubt waiting to be plucked.

The Manchester working-class were at the mercy of the food suppliers. Because of the sheer size of the population, the choice was limited.

Let’s remember that this was a time when canned goods were more expensive than fresh, and transporting perishable goods was a complicated process.

The mill masters and their families, like the Thorntons could afford expensive delicacies like fruit, but poor workers would often go hungry.

The average death age for a laborer was just 17.

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About Agzy The Ripper

Sew, Rip, Repeat... and love each moment of it! Join me as I embark on a myriad of sewing and crafting shenanigans.

6 responses »

  1. Yes indeed! It was a very brutal time for the working poor. E. Gaskell does a masterful job of portraying this era in her book, and it is translated very well by the series producers. This is why this series is so beloved, besides the excellent cast and their performances (in particular a certain actor whom we all admire)!

    Reply
    • She conrasted many elements: north vs. south, the poor and the wealthy, masculine vs. feminine and so on. I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t until the 50s that readers came back to Gaskell’s writing. I’m happy they did! I can’t imagine RA’s career without Thornton!

      Reply
  2. You need to be a little suspicious of the death figure of 17 unless you give it more context. Is that life expectancy at birth? If so, it was heavily influenced by the unbelievable infant morality rates. Until the 1770s a majority of babies born in Europe died before the age of 3, and those figures aren’t influenced so much by factory life as by infectious disease. I’m less familiar with the figures after 1800 because I only follow the fields I teach in closely and I’m done lecturing at 1789 these days. But usually the figure is better if you’re looking at life expectancy at a higher age, i.e., life expectancy at 12, for example.

    Reply
  3. I definitely noticed the pig heads in N&S but never the chickens until you pointed them out. Good eyes! This show had it all and I think that’s why it was so appealing. N&S was not just a romance, but it spoke of unions and industrialization providing broader interest.

    Reply
    • I’ve always watched N&S on my tv, but when I switched to my laptop, so many different elements appeared. Like the sound of the weather, or these hidden treasures in the gloom of Milton 🙂
      I’d like to tackle a post on pre-industrail US, and how it tried to avoid the European mistakes. Maybe one day 🙂

      Reply
  4. Pingback: My North & South Anniversary 5/7. Wallpapering Milton « I Want to be a Pin-Up

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