Yorkshire Slavery

AUTHOR: Richard Oastler was born to a linen merchant in 1789 and later moved to Leeds. He was an Anglican, Tory and protectionist as well as a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery in the West Indies. He was also against Roman Catholic emancipation.

CONTEXT: “Yorkshire Slavery” was written in 1830 after Oastler met with John Wood, a manufacturer in Bradford who introduced the atrocities of the factories to Oastler. The Industrial Revolution had taken off around 1820, therefore, around the time “Yorkshire Slavery” was written in 1830, the revolution was in full force.

LANGUAGE: Oastler uses confidence and information in order to portray his points. However, he also seems horrified and shocked when describing the conditions of factories and the stories about child workers being abused.

AUDIENCE: In this piece, Oastler addresses the English nation, as many of them were unaware of the issues within the factory. He even states, “my attention had not been particularly called to the subject of the factory system, until I had that fact communicated to me.” ((Yorkshire Slavery 1)) As mentioned above, his encounter with John Wood opened his eyes towards what was really occurring within the factories and he felt obligated to share it with the English nation.

INTENT: As previously mentioned, Richard Oastler was an advocate for children’s rights in the factory only after he met with John Wood. However after learning all of the information, he was compelled to share it with the nation in order to bring about change and help the workers.

MESSAGE: Oastler’s overall message is understood to be that the children are being overworked in an inhumane and cruel way. He states that there are some things he would “never [dare] to publish” because of how awful they are (“Yorkshire Slavery” 1). Beyond the working conditions within the factory, he also advocates for shorter work hours, arguing that the children grow up with out knowing what it is like to be loved because they hardly see their parents. Oastler makes the argument that the child workforce is dehumanizing and needs to change.

WHY? As stated before, Richard Oastler had met with a manufacturer in Bradford before writing “Yorkshire Slavery.” During this meeting, he discovered the evils of the factory and the struggles the child workers face; he promised himself he would not stop doing everything in his power to help the workers of the factories.

2 thoughts on “Yorkshire Slavery

  1. First, I want to commend you for recognizing that this writing was a result of a meeting with a business owner. It truly is a good reason as to why Oastler wrote what he did. Oastler did not think of these thoughts out of the blue, and factory labor like was not something that he came across during his everyday life as a steward. The encounter turned Oastler’s life around into something else that it had not been before. In some considerations, it gave him a purpose to his life that he had not had before. Much of his earlier years were plagued by failure or obstacles out of his control. Following this writing, Oastler became so dedicated that he was in jail for three years due to his protests.

    Information retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Oastler

  2. However, the title of this source is key to understanding the source as well. In addition to meeting campaigning against child labor, it is important to note that Oastler was an abolitionist as well. The pay was so low, and the conditions so poor, child labor was not far removed from actual slavery. Families were forced to send their children to work, and the working class families became entrenched in a cycle that did not allow for upward mobility.


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