Social Scientist. v 13, no. 149-50 (Oct-Nov 1985) p. 48.


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NIRMALA BANERJEE"

Modernisation and Marginalisation

A WELL-KNOWN FACT about the first industrial revolution that took place in Britain was the widespread participation by women and children in the industrial work force. This was especially true of its early phases. They had crowded into the "dark and satanic mills" in such large numbers that, at the time of the 1851 population census of Great Britain, women and girls in th textiles clothing industries constituted over half the total manufacturing employment and over one fifth of the entire non-agricultural work force of the country.' Women^s participation in modern industry appeared to be such an integral part of the new industrial technology and organisation that Marx remarked "In so far as machinery dispenses with muscular power it becomes a means of employing labourers of slight muscular strength and those whose bodily development is incomplete but whose limbs are all the more supple. The labour of women and children was, therefore, the first thing sought for by capitalists who used machinery".2

Another important and novel change in the British economy after the onset of the industrial revolution was the fast expansion of an independent, non-agricultural, non-industrial sector of employment. Industries and agriculture had always existed side by side in the British economy; but the growth of such a service sector to an extent that it employed just under half the British labour force by 1911 was an entirely new phenomenon.3 The service sector included wholesale and retail trade, financial and commercial institutions, personal and professional services, transport and com-itiunications as well as public administration and welfare services. In the earlier stages, women in the service sector were confined mainly to domestic service, an occupation which had expanded fast in the 19th century along with the growth of a new urban bourgeoise. After 1911, however, women moved out of domestic service to other sections of the service sector and by 1960s they held over half the total number of service sector jobs in the United Kingdom.4

As a result of women's large scale participation in modern activities both in the industrial as well as service occupations, there was an increasing dominance of women in rural to urban migration through the .19th century.

Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta



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