The catalyst to Britain’s Industrial Revolution was the slave labour of orphans and destitute children. In this shocking and moving account of their exploitation and eventual emancipation, Professor Jane Humphries uses the actual words of these child workers (recorded in diaries, interviews and letters) to let them tell their own story. She also uses groundbreaking animation to bring to life a world where 12-year-olds went to war at Trafalgar and six-year-olds worked the fields as human scarecrows.
Jane Humphries is a fellow of All Soul Souls College and a Professor of Economic History at Oxford University and the author of “Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution”.
In “The Children Who Built Victorian England” she uses the biographies, letters, diaries and documents of hundreds of working children to tell the story of the Industrial Revolution from their perspective. By accessing their testimonies she allows them to speak up for themselves and what they have to say may surprise you. These children weren’t mindless drones or soul-less victims; they were feisty, clever, gutsy and determined people who collectively made sure that future generations did not suffer the same fate they did.
The programme also sees Jane visiting Jane visits the places where the children worked as she tries to get a picture of how widespread the practice of child labour was. She also looks at the kind of jobs that, 200 years ago, were seen as appropriate for children.
More tellingly she also reveals the social conditions which created a population boom amongst the poor – one which was exploited by the early industrialists. For example most of the new factories were built in sparsely populated areas and so their workforce was provided through the trafficking of orphans from the cities. These destitute children aged eight and sometimes younger, who were handed over by the Parish authorities and signed up to work for free until they reached adulthood. Without this available slave labour many businesses would never have got off the ground.
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. All copyrighted materials contained herein belong to their respective copyright holders, I do not claim ownership over any of these materials. I realize no profit, monetary or otherwise, from the exhibition of these videos.