Young Workers

Young People : Look Back in Time

Young people's working hours in the 19th Century
Take our History Quiz...In March 1832, a man named Michael Sadler introduced a Bill into Parliament that proposed limiting the working hours of all persons under the age of 18, to ten hours a day.

There was great debate about this but Parliament was unwilling to pass the Bill. However, a month later, it was agreed that there should be another enquiry into child labour. Michael Sadler was made Chairman and over the next three months, his committee interviewed 48 people who had worked in textile factories as children. They discovered that it was quite common for children to be working over 12 hours a day in what by today's standards are the most appalling and brutal conditions.

A few years later in 1836, Lord Ashley, carried out a survey of doctors and used their comments to persuade Parliament that children could not work more than ten hours without damaging their health. However, he had to admit that not all the doctors interviewed agreed with this.

Can you believe this?

How would you feel if someone did this to you?

It was very difficult for workers to tell exactly how long they had been working. Many factory owners and managers kept their workers working for as long as they wanted them to - from 5 in the morning to 9 at night for example. The trouble was that in some factories, workers were not allowed to carry a watch. In fact, workers from poorer families could not actually afford clocks or watches. If they were late for work, they were punished, perhaps taking a beating, and had money deducted from their wages. Some factory masters and managers got up to nasty tricks by putting clocks forward in the morning (to pretend that some workers were late) and back at night (to keep workers working for longer hours).

Can you imagine what life would be like today without clocks and watches?

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