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 discusses the appalling conditions that factory workers were subjected to.
This government report lists the thousands of accidents that occurred in a single year in textile factories around the country.
This image shows children working in coal mines. It is taken from a government report compiled by the Children's Employment Commission in 1842.
This article from Reynolds's Newspaper on 8 July 1888 reports on the start of the Match Girls strike.
This article, written by Dickens on industrial safety and child labour, was published in the April 22, 1854 issue of Household Words.
These mid-19th century circus posters are evidence of the colour and craft of Victorian popular entertainment.
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.