Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Children's working conditions

Children had an unhappy childhood. They worked hard to satisfy the needs of their parents because families were very poor and they didn't have enough money, so children worked. They underwent very difficult conditions of employment. Days were long for them : eight or twelve hours a day, six days a week. Children worked in manufactories.

At that time, there was no insurance and when children had accidents or were ill they didn't have any help. Many children often worked with adults : they worked under the same conditions. Children were small, they could go into narrow spaces, children were clever too and employers appreciated these qualities. Nowadays , in poor countries, many children often work to help their parents but the conditions of employment may be better than the industrial revolution in England.


 In 1830, children could be ill with cholera when they drank water. Streets in London were dirty. Conditions of life were very difficult. Children lived in the street and the industrial revolution caused pollution. Many children were very ill. Children's lungs infected and they blackened. They had tuberculosis.  Whooping cough was practically the same as tuberculosis. It was a virus. In the 19 th century vaccins didn't exist. The rate of mortality was high.

Only children from rich families went to school. But these ones were not many.
Boys were in famous schools like Eton where education was very strict. Eton is a big school near London in front of Windsor.
Girls didn't have the same education as boys. They were kept at home and taught singing, piano playing and sewing. They learned to become good wives and good mothers. 

Anyway, most children in early Victorian England never went to school at all and more than half of them grew up unable even to read or write. Although some did go to Sunday schools which were run by churches. Children from rich families were luckier than poor children. Nannies looked after them, and they had toys and books. A governess would  teach the children at home. Slowly, things changed for poorer children too. In 1870, the Education Act was passed. It offered schools for all children between the age of 5 and 13.                                                  
By the end of the Victorian age all children under 12 had to go to school. Now everybody could learn how to read and write, and how to count properly.
Victorian  unfortunate children found in Dickens their most powerful and effective advocate. His Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, with their nightmarish childhood experiences,  have moved entire generations of readers for more than a century.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

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