The Working Classes in Revolutionary France

1830: The Effect of Industrialization on Revolutionary Workers
Workers

Revolutionaries

Delacroix

Works Cited

On July 29, 1830, a revolutionary crowd of 700 workers - led by print shop workers - forced their way into the Royal Printing Workshop in Paris and used gunstocks and iron bars to damage and beat the mechanical presses. After destroying the printing presses, they left. The workers only wanted to disable the machines, which they thought were their biggest threat. The workers did not yet see that capitalism and the owners using the machines were their true threat.

 

 

 

Painting by Honore Daumier, The Uprising, 1860

 

Workers Dissatisfaction with Industrialization
The printer outburst during the 1830 revolution was not the first time workers struck out against machines, nor would it be the last. After the revolution, outbursts occurred among female shawl-workers, tobacco workers, and other skilled artisans.
In fact, "there were 89 strikes in Paris 1830-3, 30 of them in 1830" (Magraw, 53).

Anger at industrialization was reflected in and a main motivator of the workers' participation in the revolution of 1830. French workers were angered by the industrialism taking place during the nineteenth century. They felt that their world was changing and being overtaken by machines. Although the industrial growth in France was not nearly as close to that of England, it did transform the French economy, altering the orginization of workplaces and patterns of inequality. The economic change in the mid-nineteenth century "produced a more cohesive and politically organized working class, [with] a political agenda increasingly dominated by issues of economic inequality and expressed in a language of class" (Aminzade, 4).

The working class' political views were shaped by their economic standing. The workers' "republican socialist discourse of the early 1830s was . . . the creative response of artisanal craftsmen faced with harsh new political and economic realities" (Aminzade, 44).

Although factories, like that to the left did not exist throughout France, their presence and economic consequences were felt by the French workers at an early stage.
 
 
The operation of a bessimer converter in a Saint-Seurin factory. Reprinted from Turgan,
Les grandes usines, taken from Aminzade, 104.

The economic realities facing the worker from the industrialization in 1830 were:

    • their liberal and undemocratic state
    • the expanding market economy, in which unapprenticed labor, ready-made products, non mechanized factories, and prison labor all competed with the handicraft industry
 
In Les Miserables, Saint Denis, Book V, Hugo describes the economic realities and consequences of revolutionary politics, during the revolution of 1832, and the aftermath of 1830:
"The Faubourg Saint Antoine had still other causes of excitement, for it felt the rebound of the commercial crises of the failures, the strikes, and stoppages, inherent in great political disturbances. In time of revolution, misery is at once cause and effect. The blow which it strikes returns upon itself. "

France's industrialization would continue throughout the nineteenth century and be a player in other revolutions, such as the Lyonnais silk weavers of 1832 and 1834, and the revolution of 1848.