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Child Workers and Industrial Health in Britain, 1780-1850


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Historians have long recognised the importance of child health during the Industrial Revolution, but few have explored the health of working children in any analytical detail. In this comprehensive study, Peter Kirby places the occupational health of employed children within a broad context of social, industrial and environmental change during the period 1780 to 1850. The book explores the deformities, fevers, respiratory complaints, industrial injuries and physical ill-treatment which have long been associated with child labour in the factory workplace. The result is a more nuanced picture of child health and child labour during the classic 'factory age' which raises important questions about the enduring stereotype of the health-impaired and abused industrial child.

Peter Kirby is Professor of Social History and Director of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare at Glasgow Caledonian University.


In this meticulously researched study, Peter Kirby challenges assumptions about child workers that were commonly held by contemporaries and that have been perpetuated by historians. ... The implications of his highly readable reinterpretation ... should be given due recognition by anyone researching industrial populations. LOCAL POPULATION STUDIES

This book is an important contribution to the history of child labour during industrialisation, as well as to the history of medicine and its 'professionalisation' in the nineteenth century. It provides a corrective to long-held, but ill-informed, views on child workers in northern textile mills. ... Essential reading. CANADIAN JOURNAL OF HISTORY

Significantly contributes to the child labor literature. ... [It] has broad appeal and should be of interest to economic historians and social historians, as well as psychologists and sociologists. It is well written and superbly documented and is accessible to students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. EH.NET

An elegantly written exploration. . Recommended. CHOICE, February 2014


First Published: 19 Sep 2013
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843838845
Pages: 224
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Paperback
Imprint: Boydell Press
Series: People, Markets, Goods: Economies and Societies in History
Subject: Modern History

Details updated on 18 Dec 2014


  • 1  Introduction: : Locating Children's Industrial Health
  • 2  Child Health and the Manufacturing Environment
  • 3  Child Health in the Industrial Workplace
  • 4  Certifying Surgeons, Children's Ages and Physical Growth
  • 5  The Ill-Treatment of Working Children
  • 6  Conclusion: Relocating the Health of Industrial Children, 1780-1850
  • 7  Appendix
  • 8  Bibliography