Scotlands History

Child labour

The Industrial Revolution allowed cheaper and more plentiful goods to be produced, but at a social cost. 

Children usually had no choice but to follow their parents into factories or mines for work.

In 1802 a Parliamentary Act was passed to improve conditions, followed by another Act of 1819 specifically to help children working in cotton mills. But neither Act was successful, because no inspectors were appointed to enforce the laws. A Royal Commission of 1832 detailed many of the problems: there was evidence of children being locked in, beaten, working a 12-hour day, and losing fingers in machinery.

Finally, the Factory Act of 1833 limited work to children over the age of 9, with meal breaks of an hour and a half per day, holidays of two full days and eight half-days per year, and education for those who worked part-time - and factories could be inspected at any time.

  • An early 20th century image of child miners
  • An old photograph of women and children baiting the line.

Click on the image to view a larger version.