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Child Labor during Industrial Revolution - Essay Example

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Child Labor during Industrial Revolution

Child labour played a fundamental, though little acknowledge, role in the industrialisation of Britain. As Humphries (1995) writes, "the child worker stands pitifully at the heart of contemporary perceptions of the British Industrial Revolution. But modern economic historians have neglected her experiences and her contribution." That contribution, as may be inferred from Humphries' (1995) research is largely incalculable. His/her experiences, however, have been recorded by the literary authors, amongst whom one may mention Dickens, and sociologists. They are important because they explain several of the questions relating to child labour, as in the conditions which incited it and who, precisely, was responsible for the exploitation of children.
In response to the question pertaining to responsibility for child labour and exploitation, the Industrial Revolution only intensified already existing conditions. ...
ncontrovertibly unethical base, the Industrial Revolution may be identified as one of the forces which eventually led to the decline of the aforementioned practice. The implication here is that the Industrial Revolution effectively continued a trend and did not cause it and, in so doing, contributed to the termination of that trend.
Child labour may have declined towards the end of the nineteenth century but, it endured throughout much of the Industrial Revolution due to market conditions. Poverty, as both Cunningham (1990) and Humphries (1995) explain, did not simply incite parents to seek employment for their children but motivated children themselves, among whom were orphans and street children, to seek employment. In that sense, the labour of children, while founded upon exploitation, provided the child labourer with a means for basic survival. The implication, therefore, is that, comparatively speaking, children benefited from paid employment, if only for the fact that it allowed them shelter and the fulfilment of their barest nutrition needs.
Employees sought child labour because of the very nature of market conditions. The demand for cheap and unskilled labour was high and children and women were the perfect candidates, not just because they were cheaper than male labourers but also because they were perceived of as controllable, or a source of relatively trouble-free cheap labour. The aforementioned, combined with the determination to keep production costs at a minimal in order to increase profit margins, incited employees to exploit child labour.
While the demand for child labour, due to the factors mentioned in the above paragraph was high, the supply of child labour was even higher. The fact that supply exceeded demand effectively kept child labour ...Show more


The Industrial Revolution stands out as an era characterised by the blatant exploitation of labour, amongst which child labour figures in centre-stage. Indeed, the exploitation of labour was such that it incited Marx and Engel's' Communist Manifesto, among other economic treatise published during the period, most of which attempted the investigation of the relationship between the demand and supply of labour on the one hand, and the manner in which their interaction led to labour exploitation…
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Child Labor during Industrial Revolution essay example
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