Child Labor and the British Industrial Revolutions Essay

The British Industrial Revolution (1770-1850) changed the social and economic life of Britain by establishing a completely new way of living and working. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, Britain was poor, though not without some economic surplus; relatively stagnant, though not completely static; and based on agriculture as its main economic activity (Deane 18). Because of the use of new food crops, such as the potato, and a decline in epidemic diseases, many of the major countries, including Britain, experienced tremendous population growth during this time. The population growth demanded the production of more goods, which soon brought about the development of factories. The technological advancements led to a new model of production and social relationships. The cottage workers were rapidly induced to long work hours in the large brick factories which resembled the stone poorhouses. Eventually, the cottage workers became unwilling to work in the factories which caused factory and mill owners to focus on abandoned and pauper children as their labor supply. These children were infants to 16 years old, averaging 4 feet 11 inches or less, and working 13 or 14 hours a day, six days a week (Spartacus). Child labor during this time became a significant topic for reformers, supporters, parents, children and the government.
During the Industrial Revolution, there were many factory reformers who were against using child labor. John Fielden was born in Todmorden to Joshua Fielden, owner of a small textile business. From an early age, he had been taught to be concerned about the wellbeing and safety of employees of the company. In 1816, he and his brothers petitioned Parliament for factory legislation that protected child workers. Fielden founded a religious social reform group called the Todmorden Unitarian Society in 1822. He also advocated the introduction of a minimum wage and believed long work hours had a severe effect on worker…

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