Robert Owen – Best Guide in 2023

Robert Owen, a Welsh reformer and former manufacturer, was one of the most well-known advocates of utopian socialism in the early 19th century. He was born on May 14 in Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales, and passed away there on November 17 in 1858. Politicians, social reformers, and royalty flocked to Lanarkshire, Scotland, the location of the mills, as a result of his New Lanark mills’ social and industrial welfare initiatives. Additionally, he sponsored or supported a number of experimental “utopian” communities, including one in New Harmony, Indiana, U.S. S. S.

Robert Owen
Robert Owen

Young Age

Owen was the second-youngest of Robert Owen’s seven children with the town’s postmistress Anne Williams. He attended local schools up until the age of 10 years old. He then started working as an apprentice tailor. In his employer’s lovely library, Owen read a lot. Reading books about religious debates at a young age led him to the conclusion that all religions had fundamental flaws. By the age of 19, he was superintendent of a substantial cotton mill in Manchester, where he quickly made it one of the best companies of its kind in Great Britain. He had excelled in business. Owen used the first American Sea Island cotton (a fine, long-staple fiber) that was ever imported into Britain to improve the quality of the cotton that was spun. After taking over as manager and a partner in the Manchester company, Owen persuaded his partners to purchase the New Lanark mills in Lanarkshire.

Success in New Lanark

Of the town’s 2,000 inhabitants, 500 were young children from charities and poorhouses in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Despite the fact that the children had received excellent care from the previous owner, their living conditions were harsh: unfavorable environments encourage vice and crime; education and sanitary conditions are ignored; and inhumane housing conditions. In addition to making improvements to the homes, Owen encouraged the people to develop orderly, hygienic, and economical habits, largely through his own influence. In addition to strictly regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages, he opened a store selling high-quality goods for close to cost. The education of children was given special consideration by him, and this was the area where he had the most success. He established the first infant school in Great Britain at the New Lanark mills in 1816 and personally oversaw its administration. The schools rejected conventional teaching strategies like corporal punishment in favor of emphasizing character development. Dance and music were also taught in the curricula.

Although Owen was initially regarded as an outsider who should be avoided, the community soon came to trust him, especially after he decided to pay the workers’ wages during a four-month mill closure brought on by an embargo against the United States during the War of 1812. Commercially, the mills continued to expand, but Owen’s plans sometimes came at a high cost, much to his partners’ displeasure. Due to his dissatisfaction with the restrictions his partners had imposed on him, Owen founded a new company in 1813. Profit was their top priority, and they preferred a more traditional approach to business management. The new company was purchased by its shareholders, who were content with a 5% return on their investment and eager to give their philanthropy more freedom. William Allen, a Quaker, and Jeremy Bentham, a utilitarian philosopher, both owned stock in the new business.

Speculating on Social Change

A New View of Society; or, Essays on the Principle of the Formation of the Human Character, was a collection of four essays that Owen published in 1813. In these essays, he outlined the tenets that would guide his system of educational philanthropy. After losing all faith in the prevalent forms of religion, he created his own creed, which he thought to be a completely new and original discovery. Owen’s philosophy’s central tenet was that character is shaped by circumstances beyond a person’s control. For this reason, neither praise nor blame should be given to anyone. He came to the conclusion that exposing people to the right influences from a young age was essential for the proper character formation of individuals as a result of these convictions. Individual irresponsibility and the effects of early influences served as the defining traits of Owen’s entire system of education and social amelioration.

New Harmony

Owen’s plans for the abolition of pauperism were well received up until he said that he hated religion and that it was a hindrance to advancement. Many of Owen’s supporters believed that this action made him appear untrustworthy to the upper classes, even though he did not entirely lose their support. In order to carry out his plan to create self-sufficient communities, he bought 30,000 acres of land in Indiana from a religious organization in 1825, renaming it New Harmony. The community’s life was generally well-ordered and content for a while under Owen’s capable leadership. However, soon afterward, disputes over the makeup of the government and the role of religion arose, despite the fact that historians’ consensus suggests that a noble spirit prevailed despite the dissent. Following the loss of £40,000, or 80% of his wealth, Owen left the area in 1828. The three other significant Owenite community experiments happened in Great Britain at Queenwood, Hampshire (1839–45), where Owen took part for three years, Orbiston, near Glasgow, Lanarkshire (1826–27), and Ralahine, County Cork (1831–33). He was not heavily involved in the latter two communities.

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