19th Century Humanities

Child Labour in Cotton Factories, 1807

Although this extract was written in 1807 it illustrates that there had been concern among some elements of society about the employment of children in factories and the long hours to which they were subjected.
A conversation between Southey and a Manchester gentleman who is showing him over the cotton factories.

Mr. -------- remarked that nothing could be so beneficial to a country as manufacture. 'You see these children, sir,' said he. 'In most parts of England poor children are a burthen to their parents and to the parish; here the parish, which would else have to support them, is rid of all expense; they get their bread almost as soon as they can run about, and by the time they are seven or eight years old bring in money. There is no idleness among us: they come at five in the morning; we allow them half an hour for breakfast, and an hour for dinner; they leave work at six, and another set relieves them for the night; the wheels never stand still.'
I was looking, while he spoke, at the unnatural dexterity with which the fingers of these little creatures were playing in the machinery, half giddy myself with the noise and the endless motion; and when he told me there was no rest in these walls, day or night, I thought that if Dante had peopled one of his hells with children, here was a scene worthy to have supplied him with new images of torment.
'These children then,' said I, 'have no time to receive instruction.' 'That, sir,' he replied 'is the evil which we have found. Girls are employed here from the age you see them till they marry, and then they know nothing about domestic work, not even how to mend a stocking or boil a potato. But we are remedying this now, and send the children to school for an hour after they have done work.' I asked if so much confinement did not injure their health. 'No' he replied, 'they are as healthy as any children in the world could be. To be sure, many of them as they grew up went off in consumptions, but consumption was the disease of the English. ...'
'We are well off for hands in Manchester,' said Mr. ------; 'manufacturers are favourable to population, the poor are not afraid of having a family here, the parishes therefore have always plenty to apprentice, and we take them as fast as they can supply us. In new manufacturing towns they find it difficult to get a supply. Their only method is to send people round the country to get children from their parents. Women usually undertake this business; they promise the parents to provide for the children; one party is glad to be eased of a burden; and it answers well to the other to find the young ones in food, lodging and clothes, and receive their wages.' 'But if these children should be ill-used', said I. 'Sir,' he replied, 'it never can be the interest of the women to use them ill, nor of the manufacturers to permit it.'
It would have been in vain to argue had I been disposed to it. Mr. ------- was a man of humane and kindly nature, who would not himself use any thing cruelly, and judged of others by his own feelings. I thought of the cities in Arabian romance, where all the inhabitants were enchanted: here Commerce is the Queen witch, and I had no talisman strong enough to disenchant those who were daily drinking of the golden cup of her charms
Robert Southey, Letters from England (1807).

Primary Source
                                                                                                                                                             By: Ingrid Liu 
                                                                                                                                                                        Francois Ly

·         Who created it?
               A: Marjie Bloy is the creator of the website.
·         Who is the author?
               A: Robert Southey is the author.
·          When was it created?
               A: This website is modified in April 13, 2010.
·          When was it published?
               A:  It was published in 1807.
·          Where was it published?
               A: It was published in England.
·          Who is publishing it?
               A: Robert Southey is publishing this document.
·          Is there anything we know about the author that is pertinent to our evaluation?
               A: Robert Southey had a conversation with a Manchester gentleman who is showing him over the cotton factories.
·         Why does this document exist?
               A: This document exists because it shows us how the children worked in the factories of England and how ignorant they were, not knowing even how to mend a stocking or boil a potato.
·         Why did the author create this piece of work? What is the intent?
               A: Robert Southey created this piece of work to let us understand the humanity existing in Manchester factories. The intent is to let the rest of the world get a grasp of the “inner” part of how the factories in Manchester work.
·         Why did the author choose this particular format?
               A: The author chose this particular format because it’s a primary source where dialogues are put into text.
·         Who is the intended audience? Who was the author thinking would receive this?
               A: Robert Southey is addressing his passage possibly to other managers of the factories in England, so that they can get the insight of his point of view towards children working in factories. The author probably thinks that critics or protestors of children-working factories might be interested in this letter, therefore reading it out and interpreting it to the society. 
·         What does the document “say”?
               A: The document points out the cruelty in factories in 1800s.
·         Can it tell you more than is on the surface?
               A: Yes, the way Robert spoke of his thoughts and idea shows how dark he thinks the actual situation really is.
·     What can we tell about the author from the piece?
               A: The author has sympathy for the children who wakes up in the morning and works from head to toes with little food to spare when it is served.
·     What can we tell about the time period from the piece?
               A: It is around the period during the start of the Industrial Revolution, given from the information about children and factories.
·    Under what circumstances was the piece created and how does the piece reflect those circumstances?
               A: The piece was created after Robert visited the cotton factory in London, noticing how much these children were suffering. The piece reflects those circumstances by explaining the conversation he had with the person who showed him the inside of the factory.
·    What can we tell about any controversies from the piece?
               A: Robert tried arguing with the person who showed him the factory, explaining how it was unfair to the children working in factories compared with those that are educated.
·    Does the author represent a particular ‘side’ of a controversy or event?
               A: Yes, he strongly disagreed with the fact that children were working in factories.
·    What can we tell about the author’s perspectives from the piece?
               A: He thinks that children were suffering from malnutrition due to the less amount of food the factory provides.
·    What was going on in history at the time the piece was created and how does this piece accurately reflect it?
               A: Industrial Revolution was about to thrive and start to flourish. This piece accurately reflects that time of the period because it clearly showed how factories only hired children to work due to how obedient and docile they were compared with men and women of an older age.
·  What part of the story can we NOT tell from this document?
               A: We do not know who specifically this letter is written to. 
·  How could we verify the content of the piece?
               A: We can verify this content by researching about similar topics during the same period, comparing and contrasting the points that are similar or different from the situation Robert has described.
·   Does this piece inaccurately reflect anything about the time period?
               A: It does not speak of other hired workers such as men and women and does not explain further about the machinery and equipment used around its surroundings.
·  What does the author leave out and why does he/she leave it out (if you know)?
               A: The author leaves out the details of those who opposed to the situation, but he probably left this detail out considering the fact that the country was all about the economy, trying to promote their status around the world and become global so their economy status can rise as well, regardless of the working conditions.
·   What is purposely not addressed?
               A: The feelings and emotions of those workers were not addressed because the manager/boss probably instructed them to only work instead of complaining, since they're the ones who can provide them food and keep them surviving.


1)      A) Which main topic does the artifact relate to? In what ways?
This artifact is related to the topic of invention, ingenuity, and entrepreneurs, because the invention of factories impacted the society; all the entrepreneurs were striving to own property and to become the wealthiest man in town by owning factories, controlling what they can.

B) Which other main topics does it also relate to?
This artifact can also relate to the human rights movement, how luddites protested to claim back their jobs.

2) Why did you choose this artifact, and how much time did you spend creating and/ or processing it?
      I chose this artifact because it was assigned. It took me about one hour to read through the passage, understand the meaning of it, and answer the question about luddites and the article.

3) What insights and understanding have you gained from the creation and/or processing of this artifact?
      This artifact gave me an insight on how the people felt back then about losing jobs and starving, worthless and penniless. It helped me understand the sufferings of a common man/woman during the Industrial Revolution

4) Does this artifact reflect your best work and/or ideas? Why, or why not?
      This artifact doesn't really reflect my best work since it's only questions and answers that show the understanding about the whole topic.

5) Rate this artifact on a scale of -5 to 5 for the following 4 criterion:

   A) impact on the quality of your portfolio                      2

   B) Impact on your level of happiness/enjoyment          3

   C) impact on your learning                                             4

   D) Level of creativity and originality                              1

6) Any additional comments.