Liberty's Dawn: A People's History of the Industrial Revolution

Liberty's Dawn: A People's History of the Industrial Revolution

Emma Griffin

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0300205252

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This title looks at hundreds of autobiographies penned between 1760 and 1900 to offer an intimate firsthand account of how the Industrial Revolution was experienced by the working class.

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1816 be used to support the claim that the industrial revolution did nothing for the first few generations of working families that lived through it? Yet we cannot leave John in the winter of 1816, bereaved, unemployed and hungry. Moreover, linking his misfortune to the process of industrialisation is simply dishonest. The root of John’s poverty was not industrialisation, but its absence. The counties of Suffolk and Norfolk in which Lincoln spent most of his life were left almost entirely

25/01/13 8:21 PM m e n at w o r k 45 conditions unpleasant and often dangerous, and there was expense and inconvenience involved in moving in search of new work. By the same token, however, our writers did not expect life to be easy or comfortable. The decision to move a short distance for a full week’s work was taken in a heartbeat, too inconsequential to merit much retrospective analysis. One final way in which industrialisation improved prospects for the working man was in the rapid

there, were many mothers who were sorely troubled that their children were compelled to go to work so young.81 Whether the stern fathers outweighed the soft mothers is anyone’s guess. Part of the difficulty is that for many writers a lot had changed between the time they started work and the time they wrote their autobiography. Within the space of a few decades, child labour had became a political issue. The employment of very young children in factories and mines became first morally repugnant

at the mill before her marriage, yet only one 4017.indd 88 25/01/13 8:21 PM women, work and the cares of home 89 indicated that his mother worked there after his birth.22 So the high wages that women could command in the factories were for the most part a transitory experience. Once women had families to care for, their days at the factory were usually over. Second in importance to the textile industry was agriculture. Once again, this broad umbrella term encompasses a variety of roles,

die I think that if she had died, I should have greatly rejoiced, for we were so poor, & such a dark prospect before us, that it was quite discourageing, however it was not so to be . . .’.79 It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Benjamin and Betty had fast-­forwarded to sexual intercourse far more quickly than they should have. But they had plenty of time to live with the consequences. They remained married for thirty-­five years. The experiences of Benjamin and Betty hint at a change in

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