Richard Oastler and Factory Labor

Author: Richard Oastler was an industrial reformer who was known as the “Factory King.” He conducted a campaign for shorter hours for factory workers, which helped lead to the creation of the Ten Hours Act of 1837. [1]

Context: His article was written during the the Industrial Revolution. The use of factory labor  was growing, which led to abuse of workers, especially for children.

Language: He wrote “Yorkshire Slavery” to educate the general public about the mistreatment of factory workers. He used simple and concise language so that everyone would be able to understand him.

Audience: General British population

Intent: He wants to educate people on the poor working conditions of factory workers, especially that of children. He wants people to realize just how long and cruel the hours are for the children.

Message: The use of child labor was becoming increasingly popular, which is something that he has become aware of. Also, he realizes how child labor causes stress in the family itself. He wants people to realize the mistreatment on working class people and wants something to be done about it.

Why? He writes this article because he sees the effect that the growing use of child labor in factories during the Industrial Revolution is having, and he wants people to become aware of it also in order for something to be done about it.

Oastler lived right in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. He saw first hand the effects industry had on people and wanted to reform practices to better the lives of people.

[1] “Richard Oastler.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2015.

What do you think Oastler would think of child labor today, both in developed countries with more strict child labor laws and less developed countries with less stringent laws?


1 thought on “Richard Oastler and Factory Labor

  1. First, a quick note: the Factories Act (Ten Hours Act) was passed in 1847, not 1837, although I believe that’s simply a typo on your front. To answer your question, I think Oastler would be horrified by the state of some countries that still rely heavily on child labor. In some of those nations, children are essentially sold to factory owners at an unfair price, leading to their exploitation. Oastler references the conditions of the West Indies in his writings, and I think Oastler would be saddened to know that this process of exploitation has continued in other former colonized regions. In fact, he may be disappointed to learn that lasting effects of many colonial empires and the cut-throat state of international economics today has pushed for the exploitation of children in other nations. It would be a fair argument to say that Oastler understood the negatives of laissez faire capitalism and the beliefs of Adam Smith.

    Overall a well-written post!

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