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‘More Like Dogs Dozing Upon a Warm Hearthstone than Like Children’: Nnineteenth-century Perceptions of Children’s Work and Health in Literature and Legislature’

Levene, Alysa and Webb, Jean (2011) ‘More Like Dogs Dozing Upon a Warm Hearthstone than Like Children’: Nnineteenth-century Perceptions of Children’s Work and Health in Literature and Legislature’. In: ‘Child Labour in the Past: Children as economic contributors and consumers’ conference of The Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past, , September 2011, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This quotation by a Yorkshire woollen weaver appeared in the 1832 Parliamentary Report on a Bill to regulate the labour of children in the mills and factories of the United Kingdom. It shows the growing perception even from those involved in manufacture that hard labour was un-child-like, and that it sapped the vitality and health that should be expected from the young. This interdisciplinary paper will examine how far this view was reflected in two types of writing which set the agenda for reformers for the rest of the century: Parliamentary reports and popular literature for children. Although the two genres were very different in many important respects they form part of the same social and cultural milieu, and between them were responsible for spreading a certain set of images and tropes very widely. However, as we will show, this was in fact a rare point of intersection between images of health and ill-health in policy and children’s literature. The children who appear in the Parliamentary reports, and characters like Tom the chimney sweeper in The Water Babies, caught the attention of the public, but they stand in sharp contrast to the robust and carefree children in most novels of the time. By considering the two genres side by side, the paper offers a novel way of examining images of children’s work and the light it sheds on expectations of childhood.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
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Subjects: P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Academic Departments > Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts
Depositing User: Jean Webb
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2012 17:41
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2012 17:41
URI: https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/id/eprint/1739

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