In honour of Labour Day, I’ve attached a link to a wonderful four part documentary on Child Labour in Victorian Britain. Children of the Revolution follows the Industrial Revoultion through the experiences of child labourers – in farmer’s fields, in factories, in all the jobs that built the privileged world we in the west enjoy today. We often think of these children like slave labourers but as the wonderful scholar who hosts the documentary explains, it is more complex than this. These kids defined themselves as labourers and as contributing members of their families. They knew nothing of childhood as we know it today and we should respect their subjective experiences.
Remember, these kids hellps develop the labour unions we have today. They are the reason your children don’t work in factories. They also anticipates the lives of so many children in the developing world today. We in the west arrogantly claim that we have moved beyond an industrial economy and into a knowledge economy. However, that is only because we’ve moved these wretched jobs to remote industrial cities in China, India, Africa, and Eastern Europe where the media is banned and we are not privy to the continued exploitation of children for everything from the PJs you’re currently wearing or the Apple computer you’re reading this on. This is the world we benefit from and we all need to support those who are exploited for our benefit.
So the next time you’re annoyed when a union goes on strike and the government pushes through back to work legislation or you think that your union is being greedy, think of why these institutions exist. Most wealth is built on exploitation and these Victorian children were some of the first to fight for quality working conditions and living wages. Much has changed, and yet, nothing has. Remember Newt Gingrich campaigned for President this year to cheers at the suggestion of changing laws so that poor children could be put into labour and janitorial jobs. Poverty to this day is blamed by the rich on laziness. This allows the rich to deflect blame from their own greed. Remember, Victorian England is the world that the rich benefitted from the most. Do you want to return to that world? I don’t. Neither do the many poor children living today.
Remember the past and think about the future. Happy Labour Day!
I do not own this documentary and share it purely for educational purposes. Thank you to the makers of this work for a brilliant piece of documentary film!