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Monday, June 18

Two Worlds: Children During the Regency Period

Children in the early 19th century lived in vastly different worlds according to their incomes and circumstances

While the rich could afford to educate their children during the Georgian and Regency periods, the children of the working classes knew no such luxuries since there were no free state-run schools at the time.

Many children from lower income families were expected to work, often in textile mills and factories. In 1788, two-thirds of the individuals working in factories were children who worked 13 hours a day, six days per week. In fact, women and children were often the preferred laborer since they earned lower wages. Children, being quite small, were employed to repair machinery or keep them in order, often while the machines were still running. This practice resulted in many accidents or fatalities. One apprentice in a mill described his accident:

There was a great deal of cotton in the machine, one of the wheels caught my finger and tore it off, it was the forefinger of my left hand. I was attended by the surgeon of the factory Mr Holland and in about six weeks I recovered.

Children's books became popular during the end of the 18th century and early 19th century, entertaining those privileged children who could read. At the same time, funding for the local parishes that took care of pauper children, orphans, and poor families began to decrease or dry up.

Mill owners took up some of the slack, taking care of the children that parishes could no longer support. Samuel Greg of Quarry Bank Mill, an owner with a sense of fairness, insisted that: each child he took on came to him with a new set of clothing, in return he promised the Parish that he would give 'sufficient Meat, Drink, Apparel [clothing], Lodging, Washing, and other Things necessary and fit for an Apprentice.'
By the early 19th century, a series of factory acts were passed to restrict the hours that children were allowed to work, and to improve safety. (Wikipedia).

Learn more about children during this period in the following links:

Book image from the Republic of Pemberley, Ingres portrait from the Louvre


Icha said...

Interesting post, Madam! One would think that you truly live in England. I guess the discrepancies between children of the upper and lower cast truly ignited writers such as Dickens to write the 'underground' world, eh? I love his David Copperfield. Eh, it was Dickens', wasn't it?

Vic said...

Yes, Icha, I believe that Charles Dickens was inflamed by the discrepancies between the classes. I love his books because he depicted the lives of the poor and downtrodden so well. Good observation.