Yorkshire Slavery and Labor Conditions

Author: Richard Oastler. Oastler was born in 1789[i] to an English family and advocated for the abolishment of slavery and improved labor conditions, especially for children.

Context: His letter “Yorkshire Slavery” was written in 1830 during the time of significantly increased industry (at this point, right in the thick of the Industrial Revolution), and need for more┬álabor in factories and mills.

Language: I would describe the language of the piece as assertive and defiant. Oastler brought forward several gruesome examples of the difficulties of labor at the time, while using a very negative tone to display these hardships.

Audience: Oastler intends to reach the hearts and minds of the English people, who he believes don’t fully understand the severity of the situation at hand.

Intent: As mentioned above, Oastler was disgusted with the current conditions of the labor, especially the hardships young children were dealing with in the workforce. His intent was to bring forth these cruelties in a way that would inspire his fellow English people to act on improving these respective conditions.

Message: With descriptions such as “whose forehead has been cut open by the thong; whose cheeks and lips have been laid open, whose back has been almost covered with black stripes”[ii] and references to “the bodily sufferings that these poor creatures are subject to”[iii], Oastler’s message here is clear: what is happening here is not right and needs to stopped, now.

But…why?: Oastler has seen these horrific conditions first hand, and has gathered several stories from parents of these respective children. He empathizes with these parents and believes these conditions are “the foundation of the disaffection and unpleasantness of the present age”.[iv]


[i] http://www.victorianweb.org/history/yorkslav.html

[ii] ibid

[iii] ibid

[iv] ibid

One thought on “Yorkshire Slavery and Labor Conditions

  1. Oastler fought for reform on a humanitarian platform, but also understood the economic benefits of a happier, healthier work environment. Like Robert Owen, Oastler saw how treating workers like animals harms the economy.

    The difference between Oastler and Owen, however, is that they targeted different demographics. Owen spoke to the workers, encouraging them to stand up for themselves, and build unions. Oastler spoke to the families and parents of workers.

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