The Rise of the Middle ClassCategory: 18th century
With the industrialization, the British middle class grew larger and more influential as the number of financiers, factory owners and capitalist farmers increased. The upper class still possessed the land and titles, but the industrial middle class had the money. During the whole of the 18th century, the landed aristocracy, which largely controlled Parliament, firmly resisted any attempts by the middle class to gain power.
But wealth was to bring political influence, and the new capitalists worked hard to eliminate government interference in business and to ensure a climate favourable for continued industrial expansion.
The new industrialists developed not only a new style of business, but also a new lifestyle. Some of them imitated aristocracy by buying country estates and taking up such sports as hunting and horse racing. At the time of the Industrial Revolution, however, the middle class valued leisure only when it promoted work skills and family life, and criticized aristocracy for idleness and gambling.
Many of the middle class were relatively well educated. Many people in the middle class paid considerable attention to religion, believing it to be a good way to instill morality. They generally considered hard work the key to a good life and to social success. They criticized poor people for not working hard enough and were reluctant to help the poor on the grounds that it encouraged bad habits among the needy.