Warm-up: Economic Theories that Justify the Industrial Revolution

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Warm-up: Economic Theories that Justify the Industrial Revolution – looking at historical context

What were the theories of Malthus and Ricardo? Why did those ideas seem normal in the 18th century?

Malthus: The world is overpopulated. People need to die. We should not help the poor.

All the children born, beyond what would be required to keep up the population to this level, must necessarily perish, unless room be made for them by the deaths of grown persons. ... To act consistently, therefore, we should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavoring to impede, the operation of nature in producing this mortality, and if we dread the too frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction, which we compel nature to use.” – Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)

Ricardo: Iron Law of Wages. The economy runs on natural laws. Wages will naturally sink to the lowest level. It is not worth government efforts to help the poor....

Source: David Ricardo, English economist, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 1817.

Like all other contracts, wages should be left to the fair and free competition of the market, and should never be controlled by the interference of the legislature. The clear and direct tendency of the Poor Laws* is in direct opposition to these obvious principles: . . . instead of making the poor rich, they are calculated to make the rich poor. . . . The comforts and well-being of the poor cannot be permanently secured without some regard on their part, or some effort on the part of the legislature, to regulate the increase of their numbers.

*British laws that provided a government subsidy to workers who received less than a certain amount of wages.

Discuss: What is happening at this time that might influence Malthus’ point of view about population or Ricardo’s point of view about wages? Hint: Think about 18th Century trends, other important intellectual theories, trends or ideas of this time.

Write a historical context statement like you would in a DBQ that addresses either the Malthus or Ricardo document.

It would make sense that.....

Assignment #3: Effects of the Industrial Revolution

Analyze the various effects of the Industrial Revolution in England

We have already studied how the IR was driven by multiple political, social and economic causes. These documents show various positive and negative effects.


  1. Read and label the documents – what is an effect that each document identifies?

  2. With a partner – imagine you are writing a DBQ. How would you organize your essay? What documents would go in each subtopic?

Hint: You need to have subtopics that are more than “positive” and “negative”

3. Write a thesis statement that responds to the prompt and makes sense with the documents.

4. Answer the questions below that get you to extend your analysis and help us understand historical perspectives:

In document 3, why might Edwin Chadwick propose these solutions given who he is? (POV)

In document 4, how do Karl Marx’s views contrast with Malthus and Ricardo? (NOTE: Karl Marx is also an economic theorist and we will study his views later in the unit).

In document 6, why do you think the Sadler’ committee is interviewing David Rowland? What is the purpose of this document?

Document 7: What do you think Punch Magazine hopes to accomplish by showing this image? (This is Purpose of Document!) WHO do you think are their readers and why do they want to reach them? (intended audience)

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