Date Presented

Spring 3-15-2014

Document Type


Access Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor


Second Advisor


Third Advisor



The British Industrial Revolution has been studied extensively. Leading scholars of the past and present include, but are not limited to, Getrude Himmelfarb, E.P. Thompson, Sonya O. Rose, Mary Poovey, Troy Boone, Friedrich Engles, Oliver Hamlin, Hugh D. Hindman, and George Dodd. Each focused on different aspects of the experience, which range from the economy, to family roles, including definitions of childhood and gender roles, to education, Victorian values, working conditions, and even slavery. The reason for such a diversity of approaches was clearly explained by Joel Mokyr, who argued: . . . [T]he Industrial Revolution illustrates the limitations of the compartmentalization of historical sciences. More changed in Britain in those years than just the way goods and services were produced. The role of the family and the household, the nature of work, the status of women and children, the social role of the church, the ways in which people chose their rulers and supported their poor, what people wanted to know and what they knew about the world - all these were altered more radically and faster than ever before. It is an ongoing project to disentangle how economic, technological, and social elements affected each other. The event itself transcended any definable part of British society or economic life; it was, in Perkin's phrase, a “more than Industrial Revolution.”1 Mokyr is clearly right, and by examining various aspects of the Industrial Revolution, the literature ignores that its impact, and the response to it, were all parts of a larger whole. That is, one cannot truly understand anything about industrialism if one does not first grasp that it had an extreme and unprecedented impact on every aspect of English society, from the economy to sociological constructs, making reactions to it complex and often contradictory. Reforms aimed at addressing the evils of the system clearly fall into the same category. On the surface, one might question this assertion. After all, it seemed that concern about the impact of child labor was the overriding factor behind the Sadler Committee studies and the legislation they inspired. In that, the works of Nigel Goose and Katrina Honeyman, along as that of Allison James and Alan Prout, bear mentioning. According to Goose and Honeyman’s Childhood and Child Labour in Industrial England: Diversity and Agency, 1750-1914, children needed to be understood as participants in the Industrial Revolution.2 James and Prout, however, contend that the real story necessitates an understanding of children as passive victims of the Industrial Revolution who are depowered and demeaned by their bosses and overseers.3 Certainly, without children, economic takeoff could not have occurred, so in that Goose and Honeyman have a point. However, unrestrained capitalism created circumstances that fostered the exploitation discussed by James and Prout. It was ultimately the latter that offended middle class Victorian sensibilities and triggered investigations and efforts at reform. Thus the importance of understanding the interplay of class, economic transformation, changing family dynamics, and politics if one wishes to grasp every aspect of the Industrial Revolution, including the efforts to rein in its abuses. It is this synthesis of context that this study seeks to address.