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Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution (Cambridge Studies in Economic History - Second Series) [Hardcover]

Jane Humphries
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Book Description

24 Jun 2010 Cambridge Studies in Economic History - Second Series
This is a unique account of working-class childhood during the British industrial revolution, first published in 2010. Using more than 600 autobiographies written by working men of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Jane Humphries illuminates working-class childhood in contexts untouched by conventional sources and facilitates estimates of age at starting work, social mobility, the extent of apprenticeship and the duration of schooling. The classic era of industrialisation, 1790–1850, apparently saw an upsurge in child labour. While the memoirs implicate mechanisation and the division of labour in this increase, they also show that fatherlessness and large subsets, common in these turbulent, high-mortality and high-fertility times, often cast children as partners and supports for mothers struggling to hold families together. The book offers unprecedented insights into child labour, family life, careers and schooling. Its images of suffering, stoicism and occasional childish pleasures put the humanity back into economic history and the trauma back into the industrial revolution.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 454 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (24 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521847567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521847568
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,398,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Reviews of the hardback: 'This is a deeply humane book which breathes new life into the debate over the impact of industrialisation on the standard of living. It uses a range of qualitative and quantitative approaches to examine the evidence provided by more than 600 working-class autobiographies dating back to the 1600s. It will surely become essential reading for all scholars and students of modern economic and social history, as well as for all those interested in the history of childhood, the family and human well-being.' Bernard Harris, Professor of the History of Social Policy, University of Southampton

'Jane Humphries has cast considerable new light on many important questions about the economic, social, and demographic history of that era. We are provided with much new information on the nature and role of child labor, family relations, and education, among its many issues. This is an unusually well-done work of scholarship, based on the imaginative use of traditional sources to interpret long-standing topics in a most convincing manner.' Stanley Engerman, Professor of Economics and History, University of Rochester

'Jane Humphries' ingenious use of a remarkable assemblage of working class autobiographies brings new dimensions to this long-discussed subject by illuminating the contributions of children to the first Industrial Revolution. It is written with great empathy for the social and economic costs that these younger generations carried in facilitating this historical divide. It will be essential reading for economic, social, demographic and family historians and those whose interests focus on child labour in Third World countries.' Richard M. Smith, Professor of Historical Geography and Demography, University of Cambridge

'This is a work of economic history that is at once rigorous and humane. Jane Humphries' use of workers' autobiographies opens the black box of the household economy to reveal family relations and the circumstances that led young boys into the workplace. Humphries takes the reader from the highly particular to the reliably general with a rare and enviable mastery of both economics and history.' Jan de Vries, Professor of History and Economics, University of California, Berkeley

'These life stories treat us to colourful detail about what it was like to be a working child in industrialising Britain … [Humphries] has conveyed more about the nature and importance of children's employment than any previous study …' The Times Higher Education Supplement

'The industrial revolution brought immense prosperity to the British Empire … But as a new book by Jane Humphries, a professor of economic history, shows, a terrible price was paid for this success by the labourers who serviced the machines, pushed the coal carts and turned the wheels that drove the Industrial Revolution. Many of these labourers were children.' Daily Mail

'Britain's industrial revolution - the first in the world - would have never happened without child labour. That's the startling conclusion drawn by a leading economic historian following the most detailed analysis of relevant contemporary sources ever carried out.' BBC History Magazine

'There are too many strengths in this book to pack into a short review. The scale and impact of the Napoleonic Wars on ordinary families is fully appreciated. The situating of child labour within an Industrial Revolution that slowly gathers force through the eighteenth century is another one. … this monograph is a tremendous achievement.' Pamela Sharpe, Local Population Studies

'… eloquently written account … meticulous and brilliant research …' Journal of Economic Geography

'Children were increasingly at the heart of economic life in the acute age of industrialisation, and the historical community and the public alike owe Humphries a debt of gratitude for bringing this point into sharper focus.' The English Historical Review

'Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution is richly innovative in its marrying of economic data with life stories. The voices of the children - stoical, matter of fact, and moving in their ordinariness - jump off the page. There is no other historical study of British labour during the industrial revolution that so vividly brings to life the world of the working-class child.' History Workshop Journal

Book Description

This 2010 book uses the autobiographies of working men of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in order to shed new light on child labour, family life, careers and schooling during the British industrial revolution. It provides a unique account of working-class childhood in times and places untouched by conventional sources.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Jane Humphries, Professor of Economic History at Oxford University, has written a brilliant book on the brutality of capitalist industrialisation.
She has worked through 617 autobiographies by workers, written between 1790 and 1878, which yielded new quantitative and qualitative evidence about child labour in the British industrial revolution.
Between 1702 and 1815, Britain was at war half the time. The Poor Law authorities took advantage of poverty and orphanage to recruit to the army and the navy. The loss of life was proportionately higher in the counter-revolutionary wars against France 1794-1815 than in 1914-18: one in five adult males were in the armed forces.
The great industrialising period of 1790-1850 saw a huge upsurge in child labour across Britain. In the textile industries, for example, under-18s comprised nearly half the workforce between 1835 and 1850.
Parents reluctantly sent their children to work, because of their household's poverty, since the male wage was not enough to keep the family alive. The employing class then used women and children to press down the working class's wages and conditions yet further.
Humphries writes, "Earnings grew slowly if at all from 1770 to 1850." The Hammonds' `The Town Labourer, 1760-1832' had its chapters on child labour straight after the one on `The war on Trade Unions'. As they concluded, "The Combination Laws and the employment of children on a great scale are two aspects of the same system." The ruling class's attack on workers' standards of living, its permanent war on our trade unions, caused the rise in child labour.
But from the 1850s, the new model unions, led by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, won higher adult wages, which caused the decline in the use of child labour.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars big ideas, riveting stories, sound scholarship 26 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The authority you would expect from an Oxford prof, but what marks this out is the combination of data and storytelling to give compelling accounts of what it felt like to be a child labourer - and interestingly it's not all bad - brilliantly mixed with economic analysis of the reasons for its extraordinary extent and the statistical trends that show how much the industrial revolution turned on children's labour. The usual argument between qualitative and quantitative methods dissolves as this book masters both.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book 16 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great book and very interesting!
It is pretty heavy going so I would look at it in the library before purchasing!
Would recommend to other students!
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A fascinating read about how the great British Empire was built upon the slave labour of poor working-class children. A sobering read..........
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Food for the professional researher and the casual learner 5 Feb 2013
By L. Petroni - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book contains a lot of dry scientific studies and results, which tend to make it somewhat boring. If you can get through all of that there are many narrative type parts that help give a real flavor of the times. Also there are many case studies which examine parts of individual children's lives which can also be fascinating. So this book has something for everyone; for the social or behavioral scientist who can pour over the graphs and facts and sundry other boring details, or for the more casual reader who may be interested in finding out more about children in the workplace. Another plus is there is a detailed reference section which can help the reader branch out into specific interests. This book was helpful to me in my casual research.
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