All That is Solid Melts Into Air

This was the way Marx described the process he observed taking place as the Industrial Revolution unfolded and a new ruling class – the bourgeoisie – developed usurping the power of the old landowning class whose rule had gone unchallenged since the early Middle Ages. These new rulers were the industrialists and promoters of canals and railways operating in a laissez-faire environment with little or no regulation of their activities although all canal and railway development needed Parliament to pass laws enabling the companies formed by the promoters to acquire land much of which was in the hands of families who had held it for centuries and who were not prepared in many cases to give it up without a fight .

The pace of industrial development in the western world throughout the whole of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries was without parallel in human history. From the middle of the nineteenth century alerted to the horrors of the appalling conditions in which men, women and children laboured in the mines, mills and factories Parliament began to pass legislation limiting hours of work and the age at which children could first be employed.

All the great fortunes made by the successful industrialists propelled them into a new class of aristocracy and their first instinct was to do just what the old aristocrats had done for themselves in pre-industrial times ; they acquired landed estates and gave themselves titles and aped the rituals and manners of the old aristocracy, but no-one could be in any doubt that they were ‘ new money ‘ no matter how much they pretended otherwise.

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