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The Real Oliver Twist: Robert Blincoe - A Life That Illuminates an Age Paperback – 1 Jun 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd; New edition edition (1 Jun. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840467274
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840467277
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 12.6 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 757,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘A compelling history of the lives of workhouse children in the industrial revolution’ -- Nicholas Blincoe, Guardian

‘An engrossing biography ... Historian John Waller makes a strong case. Gutsy stuff.’ -- Mail on Sunday

‘His story deserves to be told’ -- Sunday Telegraph

‘Waller writes with a passion and flair which commands the reader’s attention’ -- Times Literary Supplement

‘A compelling history of the lives of workhouse children in the industrial revolution’ -- Nicholas Blincoe, Guardian

‘An engrossing biography ... Historian John Waller makes a strong case. Gutsy stuff. ’ -- Mail on Sunday

‘His story deserves to be told’ -- Sunday Telegraph

‘Waller writes with a passion and flair which commands the reader’s attention’ -- Times Literary Supplement

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Louise Simes on 9 Oct. 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is much more than the story of Robert Blincoe, it is an important and all encompassing history of England's industrial past. Whilst telling of the appalling treatment of Robert Blincoe during his early years, the author also gives a constant political narrative of the social, economic and political history of the period. The author has meticulously researched his subject from historical records, documents and journals and includes a large bibliography. The result is an ultimately readable but important historical work for the serious reader and an important text for students. Superb.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By miss_spookiness on 11 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is the story of the life of Robert Blincoe, a man who worked in a cotton mill as a child and wrote a book about it. At first it made me think, why is there a book about it, if he's already written his biography? But this book is good as it adds the historical context and what was happening in the wider world. Robert Blincoe starts as an orphan in a London workhouse, and is sold to a cotton mill owner in the north of England. While he's there he endures terrible conditions, and suffers from various health problems. When he finally leaves the mill, he does odd jobs in similar factories and mills, and then gains enough money to be able to own his own small mill. Along the way the book describes the general situation in society, how they viewed child labourers and the actions of Parliament to stop child labour. It is an interesting book as it details the conditions in the mills, the efforts to stop it, and the alternatives available to both the workers and the factory owners. There was something about the style that I wasn't too keen on but it was a very interesting book. Recommended for anyone who is interested in 19th century history of industrial Britain.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Grace Poole on 30 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback
I agree with the other reviews and think this is an intereresting and well researched book on an orphan boy's life from the workhouse to the cotton mills.

A couple of slight criticism's prevent me from giving it five stars. One is that I found it hard to read - it could just be me, but some sentences seemed to be very convoluted and I had to read them over and over to make sense of them. Another bugbear was the author's use of the word 'work'us' as in workhouse boys. It was a novelty to begin with but by the end of the book it began to get a bit annoying. Lastly there were a few facts which were repeated several times.

But despite those slight criticisms I would definitely recommend this book. It is a privileged insight into the workhouse and cotton mills to see it from an orphan boy's perspective. It leaves you wondering about how many children must have perished because of the conditions and long working hours in the cotton mills. And how did any of them manage to survive, albeit with lifelong deformities and illnesses.

Robert Blincoe was a survivor, and this is his story!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Stibbe on 16 Oct. 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a thoroughly readable history of Britain's industrial age and the people on which the wealth of this country was built - that's not the wealthy merchants or mill owners, it's the forgotten children who slaved away in the mills under appalling conditions. This is the story of one little orphan boy's strength of spirit amid extreme childhood suffering and poverty. And it reminds us of all the individuals who suffered and fought to create better conditions for factory workers amid a political and economic climate which was driving for more, better and faster production.
Waller's meticulously researched history is written with sensitivity and passion. It is a truly accessible and illuminating work.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brian D on 12 July 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This well researched book tells the story of Robert Blincoe, an orphan child, who was despatched along with dozens of others from the Pancras Workhouse in the 1790's to work as a child slave labourer in the cotton mills of Derbyshire and elsewhere in the North of England.

Blincoe was one of the few who survived the appalling cruelty meted out to these unfortunate wretches by the mill owners and overseers whose only thought was to make money. Blincoe, his body distorted through malnourishment and abuse as a child, became the proprietor of a small business in Manchester. He published his 'Memoirs' and became something of a celebrity.

The Author probes deeply into the mind of a society which could allow such barbarism toward workers, particularly children, to take place, and concludes that in the 'feeding frenzy' which characterized the Industrial Revolution, the welfare of workers was of no consequence. The point is made that Dickens wrote about an imaginary character in 'Oliver Twist', and while Oliver had a narrow escape from being a chimney sweep, his noble birth won through in the end. Real orphans, meanwhile, were being tortured and starved to death, with no happy ending for them: even Dickens had his prejudice..

It is hard to believe that the fierce opposition to factory reform, imprisonment of workers for daring to protest, the Peterloo massacre, riots, social unrest, the dreaded workhouse and all manner of abuses took place within memory and folklore of some of our own grandparents!

A must-read-book.
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