19Th Century Working Conditions In England Essay — страница 2

  • Просмотров 2512
  • Скачиваний 41
  • Размер файла 19

workers would be fined for the smallest transgression. 10 In other factories children as young as seven years old worked on dangerous machines or in perilous mine shafts. In some mines workers were forced into a type of indentured servitude as they were forced to pay a fine if they wanted to leave the mine where they worked. 11 In one description from 1830 an eyewitness tells of how, “Thousands of little children both male and female but principally female from seven to fourteen years of age are daily compelled to labor from six o’clock in the morning to seven in the evening.” 12 Although laws existed such as the 1802 Health and Morals and Apprentices Act to regulated child welfare a lack of enforcement prevented these laws from being effective. Workers were also

unorganized and un-unionized and consequently could not fight the poor wages and bad working conditions that factory bosses compelled them to take. 13 But growing desperation in the face of meager wages, unsafe working conditions, and child labor lead to the beginnings of worker organization. Workers in urban areas lived in close proximity unlike before 1800 when they lived in isolated cottages. In the overflowing cities of England the close proximity of workers enabled them to organize; they could share their common grievances and were exposed to radical political ideas. At first the organization of workers took spontaneous and undisciplined forms. The luddite movement from 1811 to 1817 in areas such as Lancashire and Yorkshire was one of the first movements of the working

class. 14 The luddites destroyed machinery and mechanical devices to protests what they saw as a destruction of working conditions by the new factories and machinery of the Industrial Revolution. The movement although quixotic was a representation of the despair that workers felt about their declining living standards in the face of technological advancement. The luddites represented a primitive form of organization and anger at the living and working conditions of the working class. The Chartists another movement in the first half of the 19th century was also representative of early forms of worker organization that converged around working conditions. 15 The Chartists one of the first national working class movements in England aimed to implement a six point charter based

around improving the rights of workers. As Thomas Carlyle put it Chartism was a, “knife and fork question” it was aimed at securing basic rights for workers among the rampant poverty in the early 19th century. 16 Although the Chartists movement’s power waned and virtually ended by 1848 it laid the ground work for the union’s in England and many of the Chartists members went onto work to serve working class causes in England. The increasing venting of anger by workers in the early 19th century lead to the legalization of trade unions. Many elites saw the specter of union activity as less dangerous then the unorganized and riotous outbreaks typified by the luddite and chartist movements. 17 In 1824 the Combination Acts which had prohibited trade unions were repealed and in

1825 laws were passed which gave trade unions a quasi legal status which continued until 1871 when trade unions were granted full legal status in the Trade Union Act of 1871. 18 The legalization of trade unions lead to an explosion in their growth. Workers who had previously channeled frustration at working conditions into violent rebellion or desperation now joined the emerging union movement in England. By 1845 union activities had grown so prevalent that union activists attempted to set up a national body to unify all the unions. 19 Although this body failed in its mission the fact of its existence is indicative of the growing power of the unions by the 1840’s. As the population increased and still more people streamed into the cities the emerging unions were able to take

advantage of this opportunity and gain new members and new power. By 1851 London had almost tripled in size from its population 50 years before. In Glasgow the population had more than quadrupled in the same period. 20 At the same time that the population in cities was multiplying; employment in industries such as mining and textiles was swelling. Between 1841 and 1851 alone the employment of people in the textile and clothing industry more than doubled in England. The number of people working in mines also nearly doubled during this period. 21 The increasingly tightly packed urban centers, and increasing employment in manufacturing and mining job sectors combined to give the unions more members. Despite the lack of power of unions prior to the early 1840’s a variety of laws