Tawney Lecture 2010 - Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution

Authors/Speakers/Subjects: Jane Humphries

Published Date: 01 Jan 2010

Duration: 64 minutes, 58 seconds


Autobiographies by working men in which they described their first job, age at starting work, and family life document the extent of child labour in the British industrial revolution. While the classical accounts of industrialization gave child labour a central role, recent reinterpretations which downplay the cotton industry, factories and poverty have pushed it from the economic limelight. The autobiographies’ fresh evidence and unique perspective suggest that 1790-1850 saw an upsurge in children’s work. While mechanization and factories are implicated in this increase, new divisions of labour in workshop production also contributed. On the supply-side, fatherlessness and large sibsets, common in these turbulent times, cast children as breadwinners in struggling families.

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