After the industrial revolution, the economy of nearly all European countries changed dramatically. The prevailing new system: capitalism. If you are an American reading this, you probably think you know capitalism, but the American economic system is actually a mixed economy. Aspects of capitalism (predominantly) and socialism, such as restrictions on monopolies.
The system of capitalism of the 19th century was ruthless, both in America and Europe. Workers would work for, what today would be, far less than minimum wage and working 18 hour, 6 day weeks was common. One memoir from that time, in The German Worker, tells the story of a woman who had a half hour lunch break while working and living in the city. Of course, there were no cars or prepared meals, so the woman, who was a mother and wife, had to run back home prepare food for her family, and hopefully have time to grab some food to eat on the walk back to the factory, in a half hour.
Out of this system arose the ideas of Socialism. A government, who would set the standard practices of the work place and protect the worker. These ideals prompted Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles to develop communism, two Germans, who lived and wrote in England due to the better freedoms there.
In the United States similar movements took place. However, it was called Unionism, or perhaps was retroactively renamed to that after the outbreak of the Cold War to draw clearer lines between us and them. So, in more ways than programs like social security, socialism has become a permenant part of the American workplace. Next time you enjoy overtime pay, remember socialism.
- The German Worker, a book with sections of many autobiographies from the 19th Century, Very good
- Taking the Hard Road, Explores beyond Germany, and also discusses the development of modern childhood, Also very good