Child Labour in the 19th century – History Essay
In the 19th century, children had to go to work very young. Some collieries even employed five years old children. For instance, collieries in Bradford and Leeds employed one five year old child, and 8 six years old
children. In many cases, fathers and children worked together in the same factory. Children’s work was often less hard than adult’s one, but it was really hard for them and many children complained about being tired, like the little Henry Walker, a 13 years old boy working in a pit, or James Eggley’s daughters.
The fingers of children are rather supple and thin, so they were used to perform precision tasks. Therefore, girls were often employed in collieries, and boys in pits. They worked about 10 hours a day, sometimes even 13, like Henry. But some were luckier, as the children employed in Mr Parkin’s Pit, Robert Town, who work 8 hours a day according to John Clough, the banksman. Children were sometimes obliged to work naked, and were often beaten. Security wasn’t very good, and they were often injured. Henry, for instance, had been seriously injured at head. They had hardly the time to eat, but most of them had at least a meal at work and one at home. Henry had 3 meals a day, and John Cough confirms that children were allowed to have a small break for dinner. Some of them went to Sunday school, but some didn’t go to school at all. Only a few children could read and write. Henry could do it only a little.
In 1833, factory laws protecting children were voted. It obliged children to go to school, and the workplace to be clean. Later, the Ten Hours Act limited the work of thirteen to eighteen years olds to 10 hours a day. In 1876, a minimum age requirement was passed into law.