The most interesting and most inconclusive debate on the industrial revolution in England has been concerned with the standard of living of the workers, particularly the industrial and urban poor, during the first half of the nineteenth century. In the past, those who have argued for deterioration have outnumbered those who believed that conditions of life improved, and the intransigency of both has resulted inevitably in extreme points of view. 2 To a large extent the argument has been, not an objective debate on the interpretation of the facts as known, but a controversy about values, about the desirability of social and economic change. 3 Disagreement has stemmed also from the conflicting character of the evidence, which has allowed plausible allegiance to opposed theories; from the facts that there was, for much of the period, no marked trend in living standards, and that the increase in per capita real income still left the majority of 314workers at a low standard of living, aware more of their unfulfilled wants than of their increasing prosperity. And so historians have argued—often exaggerating trends and over-dramatizing events—without feeling that they have done violence to the facts. The exact measurement of the standard of living in the years 1800–50 may be impossible, but, eschewing prejudice and pre-conceived theories, a firm statement about the trend of living standards can be derived from the mass of evidence that has survived, and from an analysis of the likely changes in income distribution during a long period of economic growth. This article argues for an upward trend in living standards during the industrial revolution; in section II, from an examination of national income and other aggregate statistics that have survived (or can be calculated or guessed with some certainty), from wage-price data, and from analogy; in section III, from an analysis of consumption figures; and in section IV, from the evidence of vital statistics, from a comparison with eighteenth-century living standards, and from details of the expansion after 1800 of social and economic opportunities. Briefly the argument is that, since average per capita income increased, since there was no trend in distribution against the workers, since (after 1815) prices fell while money wages remained constant, since per capita consumption of food and other consumer goods increased, and since government increasingly intervened in economic life to protect or raise living standards, then the real wages of the majority of English workers were rising in the years 1800–50. 1