Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the bulk of people worked in agriculture, usually on large estates owned by aristocrats. As the Industrial Revolution took off, factories became a chief source of employment for the lower classes. On the farm or estate, laborers worked largely out of doors. Their work followed the rhythm of the seasons, with labor peaking during the planting and harvest, then falling off in the winter.
In contrast, factory work was indoors and the rhythm of work was dictated by the non-stop nature of the factory's machines. People worked very long hours without seasonal breaks. People also increasingly congregated together in urban areas. Overcrowding was rampant. There was little to no infrastructure to handle sewage, trash pileups, or other problems caused by a mass influx of people.
Despite all the problems caused by industrialism, the standard of living rose. The production of cheap clothing meant that poor people could dress more warmly, decreasing mortality. Though food was still poor quality, people on the whole ate better and could afford to buy a few consumer goods.
The social changes caused by industrialism disrupted the mutual obligation inherent in the traditional relationship between aristocrats and peasants. The social fabric eroded as factory owners treated employees as simply another expense. Workers began to be upset by working long hours—up to 16 hours a day—for low wages with no job security or safety regulations. Concerned groups began to protest child labor. As a result of the problems caused by industrialism, from badly polluted and unsanitary cities where disease epidemics broke out due to abuse of workers, governments became more involved in social welfare. The modern welfare state arose from industrialism, as owners and workers forged a new society that offered workers protections such as minimum wage and child labor laws, and governments enacted legislation to increase education and enact building and sanitation codes that made life safer for the average person.
On the whole, the Industrial Revolution changed history by greatly improving the standard of living of most people, increasing longevity, and transforming culture from agrarian to urban based. However, this did not happen without suffering and struggle along the way.