John Mullen discusses industrialisation in Dickens's novels

John Mullen discusses industrialisation in Dickens's novels


Simon Callow reads from Hard Times - Sleary's Circus

Simon Callow reads from Hard Times - Sleary's Circus

Dickens had a horror of repetitive factory work. His journal, Household Words, featured articles about child labour and factory conditions, and in a novel that first appeared in that journal, he vividly depicted the horrors of industrial England. We get told very little about what the workers are producing in Hard Times. What concerns Dickens is the fact that they are regimented.

Watch the films above to see John Mullen discussing industrialisation in Dickens's novels; and Simon Callow reading a description of Sleary's circus from Hard Times. Filmed at the Charles Dickens Museum, London

Then explore the historical and literary sources below to find out more. 

Historical & Literary Sources

Engels' description of factory conditions, 1844

Engels discusses the appalling conditions that factory workers were subjected to.


Table showing accidents in factories, 1898

This government report lists the thousands of accidents that occurred in a single year in textile factories around the country.


Drawing of a child miner, 1842

This image shows children working in coal mines. It is taken from a government report compiled by the Children's Employment Commission in 1842.


Newspaper Article: Match Girls Strike, 1888

This article from Reynolds's Newspaper on 8 July 1888 reports on the start of the Match Girls strike.


Article on Factory Conditions by Dickens, 1854

This article, written by Dickens on industrial safety and child labour, was published in the April 22, 1854 issue of Household Words.


Victorian Circus Posters

These mid-19th century circus posters are evidence of the colour and craft of Victorian popular entertainment.


The Railway Alphabet Book

These pages are from The Railway Alphabet, an educational book for children. The book marries images from the industrial world with the simplicity of a lesson on ABC.