New Slaves

Factory work during the Industrial Revolution was an extremely torturous job that gave too little benefits for the workers. Although workers in general were treated poorly, it’s hard to fathom how children were able to endure working everyday in these conditions. In Yorkshire Slavery, Richard Oastler emphasizes the struggles of child laborers and the effect it had on their families. Oastler argues that as a child it is important to travel and learn different trades, but child labor completely disrupts this process. It is observed in a factory that a young boy had been beaten without mercy on his face, cheeks and back for only making a few mistakes ((Oastler, “Yorkshire Slavery”)) . Even slave owners in the West Indies during this time were disturbed to hear the practices forced upon these child laborers ((Oastler, “Yorkshire Slavery”)) . The parents of these children are also filled with guilt for having to put their children through this process. Parents are not able to interact with their children as they only see them in the morning and at night. These children are not able to develop any strong relationships when they are forced to work all the time ((Oastler, “Yorkshire Slavery”)) . Children are usually observed as beacons of energy and life but under these conditions they are seen as the opposite.

Child labor is still a major problem in the world today as seen in countries such as China, India and many other countries. Many of the items we buy today are produced by some form of child labor, yet we are more concerned about the cost rather than how it was made. We all acknowledge child labor is bad, but as consumers we do not necessarily use our wallets to stop this practice

Is it fair to tell China or any other country practicing child labor that they should not use this practice even though it was a strong contributor to making America an economic powerhouse?

Is it Ethical?

The readings for this week were quite upsetting. All of the reading focused on the abuse that people, children in particular experienced during the mid 1800s at the height of the Industrial Revolution. The first text, The Life of the Industrial Worker in the 19th Century-England exposed the harsh circumstances people were working under in factories. The workers are often described as pale and sickly looking due to the immense amount of hours they were working each day. One of the texts mentions that there was a point where people were working seventy one hours a week. The very last text in the first reading talks about how crippled children became so early on in their youth due to the gruesome working conditions they were put under. In the poem called The Silesian Weavers a particular line struck me because of the violent image it implanted in my brain, “who wrenched the last coin from our hand of need, And shot us, screaming like dogs screaming in the street”. This sentence sums up the attitude of the factory owners who did not care about the conditions their workers were subject to. Lastly, Oastler shows the anger and frustration felt by people after witnessing and hearing accounts of abuse from children workers. Oastler recounts one boy by the age of ten who had suffered many injuries already at such a young age that would surely affect his health in the future.  

These texts make me wonder about how such inhumane conditions and treatment of other human beings became acceptable in the first place. Today there are a number of companies that employ child workers who are paid very little and forced to work long hours. Not only child workers, but adults as well in many developing countries are treated poorly, regarding their wages and/or the conditions in which they are expected to work under. Why haven’t these issues been solved, why is it so easy for people to take advantage of others regarding their work? I am currently in a business class and the other day we were talking about business ethics. The question my teacher asked was as follows: Is it right of a U.S. company to support a company (presumably in an underdeveloped nation) who underpays their workers and makes them work under bad conditions if the workers say they are grateful for their work? Where is the line drawn? What if that job is the only way the workers are getting food on the table? Who are we to judge?

Fordism Before Fordism Was Cool

The Industrial Revolution was an important step for many countries during the late 18th century to 19th century, as it changed the way products were manufactured to what is now seen today.  In Adam Smith’s first chapter of, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the division of labor is seen as a necessity for maximizing the efficiency of creating manufactured goods.  The way Smith describes the importance of the division of labor relates back to Hoffmann in, “European Modernity and Soviet Socialism”, as both emphasize the categorization of the branches of labor and making humans more efficient during their livelihood.  The division of labor sets apart the most powerful countries from rest of the world.  Smith argues that, “In agriculture, the labour of the rich country is not always much more productive than that of the poor…” ((An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith)) ,in his attempt to show that the taste and price of agricultural goods will never diverge too much between countries.  However, countries that are industrialized will be able to sell finished goods of higher quality and lower cost to their consumers.  This in return leads to a society with a higher standard of living, with more people being able to afford various finished products.  

Smith outlines three circumstances necessary for the division of labor to be effective in a state.  Dexterity relates to the time in which one can complete his job in.  If the job becomes more simple, then the worker will be able to complete this job at a faster rate.  The time between each process is the next important part of this outline.  If the time between each process is reduced, there will be more energy being spent on the development of the product rather than the transport.  Lastly, the development of machinery helps increase the overall speed of creating goods.  All three of these concepts are seen to be necessary to build an industrialized society.    

What group of people is this being written for?

Does Smith miss any points necessary for an industrialized society?

Frederick W. Taylor

Author: Frederick W. Taylor was born in 1856 in Philadelphia, and died in 1915 in the same city. He was born into a lawyer’s family, and excelled in academics. He passed the entrance exam for Harvard, but unfortunately was unable to go due to failing eyesight. He later joined the Midvale Steel Company where he rose in the ranks from laborer to chief engineer. He could have become an engineer, but chose to focus more on work reforms in factories instead.

Context: Taylor lived during the height of the Industrial Revolution in America, and although he did not live in Europe, it is clear his ideas were influenced by other European authors on the subject. In his work, The Principles of Scientific Management, he takes many ideas from Adam Smith. Namely, that factory workers can improve themselves almost indefinitely, that incorporating machines is a good thing, and that everyone is connected and everyone improves from utilizing factory labor.

Language: Taylor also uses a very scientific approach in his work (much like Adam Smith), and uses dialogue to prove his point. His dialogue uses the accent of the laborer in the transcript, to perhaps show what kind of character he is, as well as his education level and why he can be persuaded to improve his workload in a gruff way.

Audience: It is pretty clear that he is speaking to the Middle to Upper classes here. He is trying to explain why this method works to other possible factory managers so that they may incorporate this method as well. He is not speaking to the actual laborers. If he were, it would possibly jeopardize his methods, since he is speaking about how to manipulate the workers so they perform better.

Intent: To reveal a new method of managing laborers: appeal to them on an individual basis, get to know them, and learn what will make them perform better.

Message: The archetype of the manager overseeing from afar while the laborers do all the work is an unstable and unproductive one. It is important for the manager to take on some of the work and be the glue that holds the factory together.

Source for biographical evidence:

Marx’s Manifesto

Author: Karl Marx was a German socialist whose theories about society laid the foundation for Communism. Marx believed that countries progress from a class divided society into a communist one through revolutions.

Context: Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, at which point the Industrial Revolution had exploded. Great Britain’s economy was booming, and other countries were starting to see similar advancements. However, the time period was mired by poor working conditions, and a lack of humanitarian care.

Language: Marx used simple language in this section of the Communist Manifesto. Other parts of the document employ more complicated language, but the sections that describe Marx’s core ideas are easily read.

Audience: Marx targeted industrial workers with this section. Other sections of the document targeted more educated members of industrial societies, but because the goal of this one was to insight labor revolutions, it targeted the laborers.

Intent: Marx saw communism as the best form of society, and wanted to spread communism throughout Europe. Communism is based off the working class, so he wanted to inspire industrial workers to follow his ideas.

Message: The class division between factory workers and factory owners is the most recent instance of a never ending class struggle. The workers must rise up against the owners and establish a new, classless, communist society. This new society will be healthier, more stable, and completely egalitarian.

Why: Like other communists, Marx feared the impending capitalist domination of Europe. He acknowledged that the Industrial Revolution was spreading from country to country like wildfire, and saw that communism would be stamped out if it did not  have a more prominent voice in Europe. So, in order to spread Communism, and keep the movement alive, he wrote the Communist Manifesto.

He also saw the terrible conditions most people were living in during the Industrial Revolution. Marx thought communism was the way to fix those problems, and prevent them from happening again.

Richard Oastler on the Industrial Revolution of England

Author: Richard Oastler was born in England in 1789. He became well known for his work to improve the working conditions of the lower class (especially children). Oastler struggled at different points in his life to keep his property, he found that he was not able to make enough money to pay his rent despite working.
Context: In 1830 Richard Oastler wrote a document known as “Yorkshire Slavery”, he was writing during the midst of the Industrial Revolution of England. As farmers moved from the countryside into the cities of England there was a sudden boom in cheap labor resources. This boom allowed entrepreneurs to pay people almost nothing to work in factories which had no workers rights priorities at all. In order for a family to survive off of the wages offered at these factories most of the time the entire family had to work; “the entire family” included the children.
Language: Oastler wrote “Yorkshire Slavery” in order to help the people of England realize that they should not have to endure the horrors that they did in the factories for the amount of money they were making. The language in his piece is persuasive and explanatory, and the prose are simple enough for the common man.
Audience: Oastler was writing for the working class in England at the time, he kept his writing clear and persuasive for his audience.
Intent: The intent of this piece appears to foremost be education. He wants to educate the people of England of the problems in their labor system. Secondly, Oastler appears to want to persuade people that the conditions that they are living in are not the conditions that they must live in. If they take action things can, in fact, change. He actually became part of the change when a movement he helped run lead to the “Ten Hours Act”.
Message: Oastler’s message is quite clear, the working class of England is suffering under unfair circumstances. Possibly the most powerful part of his message is that the children of England are being trampled the worst in the new industrial system. They are being taken advantage of and cannot defend their rights on their own. He also makes a point of how child labor is ripping apart the families of England and it is not healthy for the country. Oastler’s message is that it is time for change.
Why did Oastler bother? Oastler appears to believe that there could be change to the industrial system of his time. He saw first hand the affects that it had on the families and children who had been been subjected to the terrors of the factories. Their stories appear to have inspired him to take action for change.

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?


Richard Oastler and “Yorkshire Slavery”

Author: Richard Oastler was a labor activist who set out to reform the terrible conditions seen in England’s factory system. He was born in 1789 and died 1861.[1] His activism helped shed light on the labor horrors of the factory system.

Context: As a labor activist, Oastler writes his piece “Yorkshire Slavery” in the heart of the Industrial Revolution. As increasing industrial practices swept through England, new knowledge on its societal effects were becoming known. These effects include children working in horrible conditions.

Language: He wrote “Yorkshire Slavery” to shed light on the horrors of industry. In order to inform everyone he could, he wrote in simple language that all could comprehend. He makes his points clear and definitive.

Audience: Since his writing is simple and comprehendible, his target audience is all those who reside in England.

Intent: To educated all English people on disturbing features that exist within the factory system. He wants parents of children who work long hours in factories to be aware of the hardships they face day in and day out.

Message: He sees the changes taking place within families that rely on their children to produce an earning to live on. He notices old-fashioned domestic manufacturers are beginning to be taken over by factory manufacturers. When he was a child, “there was filial affection and parental feeling”[2] within a family. When describing family life post Industrial Revolution, he says “it destroys the happiness in the cottage family, and leads both parents and children not to regard each other in the way that Providence designed they should”.[3] His work, “Yorkshire Slavery” is meant to shed light on the real life effects the Industrial Revolution is having on working class people.

Why? 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] Bloy, Marjorie. “Biography.” Richard Oastler (1789-1861). January 1, 2013. Accessed February 8, 2015.

[2] Report from the Committee on the Bill to regulate the labour of children in the mills and factories . . . 1832: Parliamentary Papers, 1831-1832, xv, pp. 454-5 [Added by Marjie Bloy, Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore]

[3] Ibid.

Physical Deterioration of Textile Workers

Author:  there are multiple authors for this article, all writing about experiences in English textile factories and the workers there.

Context: All articles are written in the 1800s, some earlier in others. This is after the industrial revolution and the harm coming from all the work and production is coming to the surface.

Language: Though their are multiple authors, each used medical language as to describe the state of the bodies of the workers.

Audience: They were trying to talk with the owners of the factories. The owners were the ones subjecting their works, children and adults, to this harsh work that physically changed their bodies and lives.

Intent: To change the working conditions for the textile workers in England. They wanted to spread the word on what working in the factories was doing to the workers,

Message: They were explaining what was happening to the workers, how work had changed them. In the last article, the author even wrote about how the conditions changed, suggestions someone had been listening.

Why: These articles were written to show the dark side of industry, darker than what Saint-Simon, Owen, and Marx were writing about. They wanted to show the factory owners and upperclass what the new industry was doing to the workers. They wanted change for these workers because , even though they were workers, they were humans that deserved a good life just like anyone else.

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 labor 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]



[ii] ibid

[iii] ibid

[iv] ibid