Dickens’s Hard Times: Industrialisation

Lesson rationale

In this activity, students will examine the working lives of those who produced goods in factories, towns and cities and investigate the social and economic backdrop to Charles Dickens’s novel Hard Times. However, Hard Times is not just a mid-century ‘industrial’ novel; students will explore the unique way in which Dickens depicts the impact on those who are treated as useful tools, rather than sentient beings.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • What were the prevalent philosophies underpinning social and economic policy?
  • What rights did workers have in the mid-19th century?
  • What does Dickens advocate to counteract the harmful effects of controls and rigid methodologies?