The Industrial Revolution which roots in the second half of the XVIII century had nevertheless not reached the Continental Europe until the middle of the XIX (Duiker, Spielvogel 551). This document dated 1844, on the one hand, testifies the spread of the technical progress as far as Germany by that time, and, on the other hand, presents the valuable evidence of the tenor of the proletarian life of those days.
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It was created probably by the “management” (owners) of the Royal Overseas Trading Company as a set of rules for the workmen which are presented in the form of a list, written in a concise and unambiguous manner.
The changes brought about by the industrialization not only concerned the productivity level or social classes, but also were to introduce the completely different labor system (Duiker, Spielvogel 550). The emergence of such industrial unit as factory and the respectively required reorganization of the production processes, therefore, called for the establishment of the clear rules of working behavior. The problem mainly consisted in the old habits of the workforce, as former farmers were not used to working under supervision or in the circumstances of time pressure and discipline. Although hardworking, they did not comply with the requirements the employers were setting in the pursuit of maximum efficiency of their machinery. (Duiker, Spielvogel 550). This document thereby aimed at establishing the strict discipline and making sure it is clear for everyone and rigorously followed. It is clear from the detailed presentation of sanctions for the various types of misbehavior as well as from the instruction of controlling that every workman has a copy of the document.
The main issues covered by the instruction included punctuality, obedience to the superior staff and commitment to work. That implied no talks, idling, drinking or smoking in the workshops as well as strict time limits on starting and finishing work or leaving the working place. Furthermore, theft preventing measures and some hygienic and labor protection norms were included.
There are several interesting insights to be discovered from the document. First of all, the document corroborates the known fact of that time that workers were only men. Moreover, all the workers are supposed to be literate as the paper version of the document was to be distributed. It should also be noted that a really harsh timetable of 13-hour working day nevertheless stipulated 2 hours of breaks in total. In addition, the “sick fund” where all the fines went might be considered as an ancestor of modern social security system.
The conditions established appear to be quite tough, people being fined and dismissed for the minor issues. That points out the surplus in labor supply and lack of institutions to stand up for workers’ rights.
In the overall analysis, the document created to serve as a rigorous instruction for the workmen to some extent reveals the inner order of the factory of the XIX century. The tough working conditions and strict discipline, negligence of workers’ rights and interests are, however, revealed alongside with some curious notion of germs of social development – literacy, hygiene, social security, yet to mention many.
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