Essay on Child Labor during the British Industrial Revolution

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Boston College
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Importance of Archive

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According to Cambridge Dictionary, archives are considered to be records of historical documents containing primary source documents which have been assembled over time and retrieved when needed. Having interacted with different historical facts, I can contend that archives play an integral role when it comes to the provision of evidence of activities which give a description of people and institutions. Accessing various historical archives have since increased my sense of identity as well understanding of different cultures existing in my community. Child labour is one of the contemporary issues which draws its roots in the historical setting of United Kingdom. It is, therefore, imperative to explore the relevance of the archive materials in enhancing our understanding

Historical Context: Child Labour in mines.

The inception and establishment of the industrialization era paved the way for the creation of the numerous job opportunities. The Great Britain was the first country to undergo the industrial revolution in late 18th century, stretching towards the early 19th century. Maximization of the available resources with minimal costs became the primary goal of different manufacturers and entities, thus insisting on using cheap labour. Such practices contributed to the escalation of the child labour in the community. The business owners took advantage of childrens limited knowledge of the labor laws and their rights (History Home, 2016, p2). I have also learned that desperation and poverty were also another factors that pushed the minors to seek employment with hopes of getting paid to cater for their needs. All these aspects had a significant contribution towards an increase in child labour practices in the society.

British mining, the iron and coal mines is a crucial branch whose role is vital in addressing and curbing various practices related to child labour in the UK. It is revealed that in coal and iron mines, children between four to 10 years were employed, with their main tasks being the transportation of the ore and loosened coal to the main shaft. Children were also involved in activities such as watching of the doors as well as opening and closing of the doors meant to separate the partitions of mine (History Home, 2016, p2). One can only understand and get a vivid picture of the ordeals that children underwent while working in the coal and iron mines through archives.

Retrieval of the archived pieces of evidence and data is the platform upon which individuals can find a connection between the contemporary issues and the historical background. The creation of the British Child Labour Laws must have been precipitated by the suffering of the minors in under the mistreatments of the employees in different areas of the production. I have learned that the children who were working in various coal and iron mines were compelled to work in an environment characterize by long working hours and meager payments which were against the labour laws. The minors were also forced to work in hazardous conditions such as wet clay floors which made them vulnerable to accidents.

Theoretical Perspective on Child Labour.

Children are considered to be susceptible to the mistreatment from the employers. This involves the provision of poor working conditions such as long working hours, being underpaid and inadequate measures put in place to enhance the safety of children while working (The NSPCC, 2017, p2). Such circumstances led to the introduction of various laws meant to protect children against any form of exploitation through the practices of child labour. The Great Britain was among the first countries to attain Industrial Revolution, which was partly facilitated by child labour. Children from the low-income families were forced to work in order to meet their basic needs.

Under the umbrella of Factory Acts, the Great Britain was able to devise different rules and regulations that governed employment throughout the nation. As a set of UK Labour Law Acts which were enacted by the UK Congress, the Factory Acts were significant in the implementation of the policies which promoted the welfare of children as far as Child Labour Laws are concerned in early 19th century. For instance, some of the Factory Acts passed focused on regulating the working hours of workhouse children in different places of production such as factories, cotton mills, coal and iron mines (Library of Congress, 2016, p4). Such laws were significant when it comes to protecting children from being overworked.

Employment of women, young persons and Children Act 1920 was a critical gesture which barred the employment of minors in any given industrial undertaking (Irish Statute Book, 2015, p3). The law did not allow children to work in mines, queries, manufacturing industries and other places of where construction activities are taking place. The offices, shops, and Railway Premises Act 1963 is also one of the efforts directed towards the protection of the children in modern days. According to this policy, the young person (under 18 years old) are barred from cleaning various types of machines since such practices expose them to many risks that put the victims health in jeopardy.


Exploring of the archive has been vital in helping one understand modern concepts of the childhood in comparison to the past. Apparently, I discovered that it is easy to relate various facts and findings regarding childhood experiences when using historical documents containing primary source which been accumulated over time. Unlike in the past where data was scanty, the archives provide sufficient shreds of evidence which enhance the understanding of the subject matter.


BIBLIOGRAPHY History Home. (2016). Child labour in the mines. History Home , 1-11.

Irish Statute Book. (2015). Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act, 1920. Irish Statute Book, 3-6. Retrieved from

Library of Congress . (2016). Childrens Rights: United Kingdom (England and Wales). Library of Congress , 3-8.

The National Archives. (2014). 1833 Factory Act: Did it solve the problems of children in factories? The National Archives, 1-6. Retrieved from

The NSPCC. (2017). A child's legal rights: What the law says about children working. The NSPCC, 2-6. Retrieved from

Tuttle, C. (2001). Child Labor during the British Industrial Revolution. 2-6. Retrieved from

UK Aechive_Centre . (2014). Introduction to Archives: Why are archives important? UK Aechive_Centre , 2-6.

Thompson, E. P. The Making of the English Working Class. New York: Vintage Books, 1966.

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