In most countries, these were more seekers of jobs than employment. Population from rural areas migrated to the cities to live in overcrowded slums.
Small producers in towns were often faced with stiff competition from imports of cheap machine, made from England, where industrialisation was more advanced than in the continent.
This was especially so in textile production which was carried out mainly in homes or small workshops and was only partly mechanised.
In those regions of Europe where the aristocracy still enjoyed power, peasants struggled under the burden of feudal dues and obligations.
The rise of food prices or a year of bad harvest led to widespread pauperism in town and country.