The Manufacturing Population of England


In The Manufacturing Population of England, published in 1833, Peter Gaskell describes how the industrial revolution changed manufacturing in the second half of the 18th century and early part of the 19th. In particular, he considers the profound effect of steam-powered machinery on the lives and working conditions of manufacturers. In the pre-industrial era, a weaver worked ‘under [his] own roof [and] retained his individual respectability’. Gaskell suggests that working in one’s own household is ‘employment of a healthy nature’ and has a ‘powerful influence on [one’s] social affections’, creating a harmonious and ordered domestic environment and wider community (pp. 16-19). He contrasts this with the fate of the industrial worker, who ‘toil[s]… for fourteen or sixteen hours, in a heated and crowded mill’, resulting in the ‘utter destruction of all social and domestic relations’ (p. 23).

Gaskell goes on to describe in more detail the daily routine, diet and living conditions of manufacturers, including the instance of disease in such communities. He acknowledges that industrialisation has wrought some great improvements, and that a return to pre-industrial working conditions is impossible, but he leaves no doubt as to the hardships suffered by factory workers.

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The Manufacturing Population of England
Peter Gaskell
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British Library

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