The Industrious Child Worker
Child labour and childhood in Birmingham and the West Midlands, 1750–1900
Author: Mary Nejedly
Price: £16.99 (free postage)
“Nejedly understands her study as a historically informed contribution to ending child labour in our times… by underlining the emotional consequences not so much of labour, but of neglect, forced migration, and alienation. Her plea is not blinded by philanthropic thinking but based on the detailed and meticulously produced insight from history that there is, never was, and never will be a correct way to deploy children in industrial capitalist labour.”
About the book
“The use of contemporary newspapers, census returns, and personal memoirs keep the narrative engaging: the book should appeal to both academic and lay readers.” Guy Sjögren, Midland History
“Cultural historians endeavour to understand experience, and Nejedly brings some shockingly unpleasant experiences to life.” Cheryl Deedman, Family and Community History
“This is useful book which provides a readable introduction to some of the major debates of the period, enlivened with individual experiences of children. Local historians, in the Midlands and elsewhere, could benefit from pursuing similarly source-based studies in their own areas.” Michael Winstanley, The Local Historian
“Whilst this… splendid volume… examines Birmingham, the Black Country and the West Midlands, it paints a picture that would undoubtedly be replicated in many other parts of the country, and particularly in those areas in which mining and textile mills proliferated.” Paul Gaskell, Oxfordshire Family Historian
“Mary Nejedly, in her focus on the Birmingham region, has made a major contribution to the study of child labour in this country during the years of the Industrial Revolution and the late nineteenth century.” Neil Clarke, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society
Studies of child labour have examined the experiences of child workers in agriculture, mining and textile mills, yet surprisingly little research has focused on child labour in manufacturing towns.
This book investigates the extent and nature of child labour in Birmingham and the West Midlands, from the mid-eighteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. It considers the economic contributions of child workers under the age of 14 and the impact of early work on their health and education.
Child labour in the region was not a short-lived stage of the early Industrial Revolution but an integral part of industry throughout the nineteenth century.
Parents regarded their children as potentially valuable contributors to the family economy, encouraging families to migrate from rural areas so that their children could work from an early age in the manufacture of pins, nails, buttons, glass, locks and guns as well as tin-plating, carpet-weaving, brass-casting and other industries.
The demand for young workers in Birmingham was greater than that for adults; in Mary Nejedly's detailed analysis the importance of children's earnings to the family economy becomes clear, as well as the role played by child workers in industrialisation itself.
ISBN: 978-1-912260-43-0 Format: Paperback, 224pp Published: Sep 2021
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