Fay, Charles Ryle (1884–1961)
Lancashire-born economic historian, whose grandfather worked as a boy on the construction of the first railway coaches for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and later invented the chain brake used for the emergency stopping of trains, Fay subscribed to a vision of the progress of industrial society towards ‘happiness and beauty’. Increased specialization and improvements in the division of labour were, for him, essential to progress. Fay was not, however, unaware that the historical record of industrialization had been marred by hardship, poverty and waste. But these effects had not, in his view, been unavoidable. The exploitation of child and female labour, the appalling conditions in Britain’s factories and industrial towns in the 19th century, and the recurrence of distress in agricultural communities, all received Fay’s strong condemnation. His liberalism had a social conscience about it. He certainly did not number among those apostles of social laissez-faire who, on his own speculation, might well be found on the lowest ledge of Dante’s Inferno (1928, p. 358).