The Factory Question

  • Derek Fraser


Child labour was not the creation of the Industrial Revolution. Many a medieval tapestry, depicting children at work, gives the lie to the idea of a ‘Merrie England’ of feudal times when children laboured not at all. Behind closed doors the domestic system hid much unseen exploitation of children, for in many ways parents were the severest taskmasters of all. There is no real case to support the hostile anti-industrial view in the early nineteenth century which invented, most notably in the words of Engels, a golden age of rural bliss in pre-industrial society: The workers enjoyed a comfortable and peaceful existence… they were not forced to work excessive hours.... Children grew up in the open air of the countryside and if they were old enough to help their parents work this was only an occasional employment and there was no question of an 8 or 12 hour day.’1


Young Person Child Labour Free Agent Factory Movement Factory Child 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    F. Engels, The Condition of the [Forking Class in England (1958 ed., translation) P. 10.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Quoted by J. T. Ward, The Factory Movement (1962) p. 17.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Cavie Richardson, The Factory System (1831) p. 12, in Oastler’s ‘White Slavery’ Collection, vol. 4, no. 5.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    L. Homer, On the Employment of Children in Factories (1840), quoted by Ward, Factory Movement p. 214.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    E. Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury (1886)11, p. 199.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Quoted by P. Smith, Disraelian Conservatism and Social Reform (1967) p. 214.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Derek Fraser 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derek Fraser
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BradfordUK

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