Jasmine Boni Ball of the International School of Florence writes, “I came across your site the victorian web and right now im writing a paper about 'what caused an increase in child labour during the victorian times/industrial revolution' was wondering if you could possibly give me some books or websites which would helped me with my historical investigation. I find the internet it quite limited and really need some strong primary sources."

In response, a few somewhat obvious points:

1. Child labor played an imprtant part of agricultural life — children always helped on the farm, on which fourteen hour days were not uncommon — so it's not surprising that it continued when people moved from the country to the city.

2. Since mechanization often created conditions of labor in which adult male strength and skill lost much of its importance, children, who were paid much less than adult males, became widely employable.

3. Young children had jobs in which their small size and agility made them better qualified than adult men and women. For example, Slater Mill in Pawtuket, Rhode Island, the first textile mill in America that beganmarked the beginning of the North American industrial revolution, employed young boys to dart between rapidly moving machinery to fix broken threads while the machines worked at top speed, often at the cost of terrible accidents in which children lost hands or arms.

Where to go next? Look at basic social and political histories of England, such as the Oxford and Cambridge series, as well as histories of child labor, industrialization, the industrial revolution,and factory conditions. YRead contemporary British parliamentary reports as well as articles in popular periodicals, such as the Times an Illustrated London News and its rivals. Yes, print books contain enormously more information than does the internet, but if you know where to begin search you'll find abundant material in places like Google Books.


Benson, Ian, and John Lloyd. New Technology and Industrial Change: The Impact of the Scientific-Technical Revolution on Labour and Industry. London: Kogan Page/ New York: Nichols Pub 1983.

Berg, Maxine. "What Difference Did Women's Work Make to the Industrial Revolution?" History Workshop 1993 (35/spr) 22-44.

Berlanstein, Lenard R., ed. The Industrial Revolution and Work in Nineteenth-Century Europe London: Routledge, 1992.

Cohen, Marjorie."Changing Perceptions of the Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Female Labor." International Journal of Women's Studies. 1984 (7) 291-305.

Fleischman, Richard K. Conditions of Life Among the Cotton Workers of Southeastern Lancashire During the Industrial Revolution, 1780-1850. New York: Garland 1985.

Glen, Robert. Urban Workers in the Early Industrial Revolution. London: Croom Helm/ New York: St. Martin's P 1983.

Hopkins, Eric. "Working Hours and Conditions During the Industrial Revolution: A Re-Appraisal." Economic History Review. 1982 (35) 52-66.

Nardinelli, Clark. Child Labor and the Industrial Revolution. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1990.

Nardinelli, Clark. "Were Children Exploited During the Industrial Revolution?" Research in Economic History. 1988 (11) 243-276.

Stearns, Peter N., and Walkowitz, Daniel J., ed. Workers in the Industrial Revolution. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Bks, 1974.

Taylor, Arthur J., ed. The Standard of Living in Britain in the Industrial Revolution. London: Methuen/ New York: Barnes & Noble, 1975.

Thomis, Malcolm Ian. The Town Labourer and the Industrial Revolution. London: Batsford/ New York: Barnes & Noble, 1974.

Wohl, Anthony S. Endangered Lives: Public Health in Victorian Britain. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983.

Victorian Economics Victorian History Public Health

Last modified 23 October 2010