Teacher | Student
Originally produced in: Polska
Also available in: en

Curricular level

3rd class of junior high school, (History): The development of industrial civilization, Cultural, technological advances and changes of civilization at the turn of the twentieth century, PL. Polska


Nineteenth century, called the age of steam and electricity, transformed not only the European society, but also the landscape, especially in the cities. Workshops were put in the shade by huge industrial plants. Aristocratic palaces paled in comparison with luxury and modern residences of factory-owners. The old structure of the society (which was divided before into the patricians, the common people and the plebs) was replaced by a new division to bourgeoisie – owners of manufactories, factories, warehouses (usually not from the nobility), petite bourgeoisie (lower middle class)– craftsmen, owners of small workshops, shopkeepers, etc.; intelligentsia –people living with mental work called also white-collar workers (clerks, doctors, lawyers, journalists); and proletariat – the workers. At the same time, the gap between the richest layers of the entrepreneurs, who lived in splendour residences and spent their time on sophisticated entertainment, and the broad masses of workers employed by them, who lived in poverty, started to increase. These contrasts triggered social conflicts and gave birth to extreme ideologies such as communism. It is much easier to understand these complex processes while looking at the portraits of nineteenth-century industrial cities and the everyday life of their populations.

Urbanization is considered as one of the most striking phenomenon of the nineteenth-century Europe. The majority of the population of the continent moved to the cities during this century. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, population of the cities in different Western countries constituted about 20-30 per cent of the total residents of the respective countries, whereas at the threshold of the twentieth century, these indicators (depending on the region of Europe) were doubled reaching in England 78 per cent. Heavy industrialization of the economy influenced the social structure due to capital accumulation in the hands of a new group of large entrepreneurs which were not associated with, privileged up to then, landed gentry. This phenomenon, together with the enfranchisement () which was done during that time, resulted in the exodus of rural population to urban areas and enabled joining the newly formed group of workers. Industrial era significantly affects also the appearance of the European cities – industrial plants introduce chimneys and floating clouds of smoke to landscape of the cities; housing estates for workers and slums are created around the plants and in the suburbs. Pollution, disease, hunger and crime will be from now a permanent feature of urban civilization.

The materials were composed in order to make students familiarize themselves with the life realities in a nineteenth-century industrial city, both from the perspective of a factory-owner, as well as a simple worker. Students should be able to draw conclusions about deeper ideological and political transformations, which took place as a consequence of the dynamic industrialization and urbanization in almost all European countries, basing on the image of people’s life during that period.

Conceptual Objectives

  • Student will develop knowledge of the social changes that took place in Europe following the industrial revolution and the rapid development of capitalism.
  • Student will get to know the structure of the nineteenth-century urban society and will understand its evolution in relation to the earlier era.
  • Student will be able to characterize the connection between the living conditions of workers and the birth of socialist parties across Europe.
  • Student will become acquainted with the realities of life in nineteenth-century industrial city, and will understand the phenomenon of social contrasts, also in relation to the present.

Methodological Objectives and Skills

  • Student will draw an analogy between situation of workers and their living and working conditions in urban cities in different countries.
  • Student will identify and characterize elements of buildings typical of the industrial city.
  • Student will be able to characterize the causal between the living conditions of workers and the birth of socialist parties across Europe.
  • Student will identify the main thesis of the political programme of the first workers' parties on the basis of the source text.

Suggestion of Activities

Exercise for the presentation

You can divide students into groups and encourage them to find historic nineteenth-century buildings in their cities, e.g. in a form of a small project. Students can present their work in a form of photojournalism or amateur film. Under such a task, students should familiarize themselves with the history of an object what should broaden their knowledge from the scope of regional sciences. By setting an additional task of preparing parajurnalistic materials, students can develop presentation skills and capabilities of using audio-visual technologies.

Exercise for the excerpt of the movie

Students (divided into three groups) can examine the attitudes and motivations of three types of characters specific to the social order in nineteenth-century industrial city presented in the excerpt from the movie: a factory director (who represents the interest of the capitalists); an intellectual (clerk); and a worker. You can encourage students to create a decision tree for each of the types of characters including: objectives of each person, means of pursuing their goals, and effects of their actions, e.g. in the view of the Social consequences of the mechanization of production.

Exercises for the source texts

In accordance with a Social Science teacher, students can make a comparison between programmes of the first socialists and contemporary left-wing parties. Possible criteria:

  • Slogans from left-wing manifestos in the nineteenth century and today.
  • Demands of the nineteenth-century socialists fulfilled in the current labour legislation.
  • Unfulfilled demands of left-wing parties – current issues in your country, in the course of the current political debate.

Suggestion of Evaluation

Taking into account individual criteria and methods for evaluating students' work by each teacher, the following aspect should be verified in particular in case of the proposed exercises:

  • The extent to which the student locates acquired material in broader context of knowledge covered in the curriculum. Is the student able to relate known facts with the knowledge of the industrial revolution, inventions that revolutionised the economy and people's lives in the nineteenth century? Is the student able to explain the relationship between workers’ aspirations to improve their living with wide civil right movement?
  • The extent to which the student locates acquired material in relation to today’s reality. Does the student understand the link between workers’ fight for social rights in nineteenth century and modern standards ruling the labour world? Does the student notice characteristic features of the industrial era in his/her environment?
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  • Ability to build their own knowledge based on the source texts, iconography, and video material.

Further Information and Interdisciplinarity

http://www.oldukphotos.com – page contains photos of nineteenth-century Great Britain including industrial cities.

http://www.flickr.com/groups/polish-past – galleries devoted to old photographs (on the FLIKR portal) documenting daily life of people in past two centuries.

http://www.wajda.pl – official website of Andrzej Wajda.

http://lodzwirtualnie.prv.pl – webpage that allows virtual walk around old Lodz – the city portrayed by Reymont and Wajda.

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html – collections of the U.S. Congress that allow to compare the image of the nineteenth century city in Europe and the United States.

http://old-cities.blogspot.com – webpage that presents archival videos from different European cities.