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"Working conditions were terrible in 19th century Britain." Does the evidence support this view?

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Introduction

"Working conditions were terrible in 19th century Britain." Does the evidence support this view? Working conditions varied in different areas of work. In general, they improved over time and towards the end of the nineteenth century many laws and acts had been passed that made conditions better. The working conditions were not the same for all social groups, the middle class people who worked as shop keepers, clerks and skills men still had to work hard but their lives were not as bad as the working class. The early factory workers were treated like slaves and were forced to behave as if they were machines. I do think conditions were terrible for many people especially factory workers and miners. I will explain and discuss in detail more about this later on. People began to build factories at the beginning of the eighteenth century and there were very few regulations. Factory workers worked in hot and damp overcrowded rooms for long hours and little pay. Children as young as four were made to go and work in mills. Many of these children were paupers and orphans who worked for little or no pay. Work in a mill started very early in the morning, often about six in the morning and they would work until seven-thirty at night with only ten minutes for breakfast, an hour for lunch and twenty minutes for tea. Source 5 is written by an MP at the time so is therefore a primary source. He talks about decreasing the working hours for adults and children, at the beginning he says, "Here, then, is the "curse" of our factory-system; as improvements in machinery have gone on, the "avarice of masters" has prompted many to exact more labour from their hands than they were fitted by nature to perform." This basically means that as improvements to the machines were made, Mill Owners started expecting more and more from their workers to produce metres of cotton that could then be sold and a profit made. ...read more.

Middle

Their lives were hard, but the conditions were not that terrible. Throughout Britain many women in the nineteenth century worked as domestic servants. Only a handful of households in a district were able to employ servants such as butler, footman, governess, skilled cook, housekeeper, senior parlour-maid, head house-maid and lady's maid, as well as the more common servants including kitchen-maid, scullery-maid, laundress, nursemaid, housemaid, and stable-boy. For smaller households the priority was to employ the more common female servants to perform the dirty, heavy work. As soon as a family's income reached about �150 per year, they would employ a young teenage girl as a general servant. She usually worked fourteen to sixteen hours daily. If the family had a shop she would also serve behind the counter. Many maids were employed by lodging-house keepers to do the washing up, clean out all the grates, sweep and scrub the floors and to run up and down stairs carrying buckets of coal, cans of hot water and breakfasts, and most houses were several storeys high. As a family's income rose, so did the number of its servants. A housemaid and cook were the priority. Only wealthy people employed male domestic servants since there was a servant tax on them. The many wealthy visitors who came for the summer often brought with them a lady's maid, while other servants were engaged locally or were included with the property when rented for the season. According to the 1891 Census, the servant class was among the largest groups of the working population: 1,386,167 females and 58,527 males were indoor servants in private homes out of a population of twenty-nine million in England and Wales. This is a very large proportion. Life was long hard for domestic servants, they had to work long hours, but at least it was in large, clean houses rather than dirty, cramped mines. A domestic servant's work was never over, there was always some cleaning to do, or washing to be done. ...read more.

Conclusion

Source 12- Picture of deformed children Source 13- Table showing the ages of children Age of workers in cotton mills in Lancashire in 1833 Age Males Females under 11 246 155 11 - 16 1,169 1,123 17 - 21 736 1,240 22 - 26 612 780 27 - 31 355 295 32 - 36 215 100 37 - 41 168 81 42 - 46 98 38 47 - 51 88 23 52 - 56 41 4 57 - 61 28 3 Source 14- Dr. Ward from Manchester was interviewed about the health of textile workers on 25th March, 1819. When I was a surgeon in the infirmary, accidents were very often admitted to the infirmary, through the children's hands and arms having being caught in the machinery; in many instances the muscles, and the skin is stripped down to the bone, and in some instances a finger or two might be lost. Last summer I visited Lever Street School. The number of children at that time in the school, who were employed in factories, was 106. The number of children who had received injuries from the machinery amounted to very nearly one half. There were forty-seven injured in this way. Source 15- John Allett started working in a textile factory when he was fourteen years old. Allett was fifty-three when he was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 21st May, 1832. Question: Do more accidents take place at the latter end of the day? Answer: I have known more accidents at the beginning of the day than at the later part. I was an eye-witness of one. A child was working wool, that is, to prepare the wool for the machine; but the strap caught him, as he was hardly awake, and it carried him into the machinery; and we found one limb in one place, one in another, and he was cut to bits; his whole body went in, and was mangled. ...read more.

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