My Whitworth Article in Civil War Times

by Fred Ray on September 25, 2010 · 0 comments

My article on Sir Joseph Whitworth is out in the new issue of Civil War Times. It’s a very much expanded version of a post I did a couple of years ago and delves more into the man’s prickly personality as well as his rifles and other accomplishments.

I mention but do not really get into labor (or labour, if you’re across the pond) conditions in the nineteenth century. I did mention them here in a review of Deborah Petite’s Women Will Howl where I looked a the preference for more easily exploited free labor over slaves.

Slavery was certainly evil but conditions for the working man, woman, and child were not exactly idyllic either. As I pointed out in the above review, child labor was common. The Daily Mail has a review of Childhood And Child Labour In The British Industrial Revolution, by Professor Jane Humphries. It makes for harrowing reading.

The tunnel was narrow, and a mere 16in high in places. The workers could barely kneel in it, let alone stand. Thick,choking coal dust filled their lungs as they crawled through the darkness, their knees scraping on the rough surface and their muscles contracting with pain.

A single ‘hurrier’ pulled the heavy cart of coal, weighing as much as 500lb, attached by a chain to a belt worn around the waist, while one or more ‘thrusters’ pushed from behind. Acrid water dripped from the tunnel ceiling, soaking their ragged clothes.

Many would die from lung cancer and other diseases before they reached 25. For, shockingly, these human beasts of burden were children, some only five years old.

It only gets worse from there. Clearly the Industrial Revolution, which enriched all of mankind,  had a price, and Charles Dickens didn’t tell the half of it.


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