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Young Workers of the Industrial Age (Hardback)

Child Labour in the 18th and 19th Centuries

P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 18th Century P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > Social History World History > Europe World History > UK & Ireland

By Sue Wilkes
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 264
Illustrations: 32 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781036113834
Published: 30th September 2024

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RRP £22.00

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The industrial revolution was forged with the lives of our ancestors’ children.

All over Britain, children and young people toiled for hours every day. Their workplaces were pitch-dark mines, fiery furnaces, brightly-lit mills with deadly machines, and mud-filled brickyards.

Some workers were pauper apprentices, sent thousands of miles from their homes and indentured until the age of twenty-one.

Almost every item in our ancestors’ homes and wardrobes was made by children and youngsters: buttons, glass, carpets, cotton, cutlery, pins, candles, lace, pottery, straw hats, and even matches.

In grand houses and ordinary homes, tiny chimney sweeps climbed chimneys choked with soot, and boys and girls worked as domestic servants. On the land, both sexes worked in all weathers. Children worked at home, too – many helped their parents earn a living.

From the early 1800s, men like Robert Owen tried to improve children’s lives. But reform was held back for decades by wealthy mill-owners, landowners and politicians who believed that profits were more important than people.

Sue Wilkes tells the story of the battle for workplace and educational reforms led by Lord Shaftesbury, Richard Oastler, and the indefatigable factory inspectors. But it took many decades to transform society’s attitude towards childhood itself.

Young Workers of the Industrial Age takes a fresh look at the childhoods stolen to create Britain’s industrial empire.

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 Sue Wilkes

About Sue Wilkes

Sue Wilkes is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She has written extensively on social history, and industrial history and heritage. Sue was born in Lancashire, and has lived in Cheshire since the early 1980s. She read Physics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Sue is married, with two grown-up children.


She is the author of nine books and is a well-known family historian. A regular contributor to Jane Austen’s Regency World for over two decades, Sue has written many articles for history and family history magazines such Who Do You Think You Are?. She loves exploring Britain’s history and heritage, and is a keen gardener. 

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