A Thing of the Past? Child Labour in Britain in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

A Thing of the Past? Child Labour in Britain in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

A Thing of the Past? Child Labour in Britain in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

A Thing of the Past? Child Labour in Britain in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Synopsis

In Britain the phrase 'child labour' is associated with the past or with less developed economies, but children in Britain continue to perform arduous labour. This book considers child labour over the last 200 years and more contemporary issues.

Excerpt

Over the past 20 years there has been a growing interest in the socio— logical study of children and childhood (Corsaro, 1997; James et al., 1998). There is an acceptance within this literature that ‘childhood’ is a social and political entity rather a category than can merely be reduced to biological and developmental criteria. As a consequence some writers have started to look more closely at the activities (actual and expected) performed by children, the restrictions placed on them and their (lack of) social, political and economic rights within modern societies.

More recently issues of child labour have moved from the margins of academic debate to become more prominent within policy dis— course. Generally, there is a growing sense that the spread and inten— sification of capitalist social relations has resulted in more children becoming wage labourers, facing exploitation within the labour process. The internationalization of the forces of production and the global nature of modern capitalism have meant that children have been sucked into paid employment almost everywhere: they can be found in mines, factories, offices, shops and various retail outlets, on farms and streets and in a variety of ‘service’ and tourist—related indus— tries throughout the world.

The impetus for the growth in these areas of research was a series of events that occurred around the International Year of the Child in 1979. However, the interests and concerns of researchers in these two areas have often pulled in different directions. Child labour theorists have in general been concerned with issues of poverty, inequality, exploitation, class and the division of labour, while the ‘new sociolo— gists’ have focused on the exclusion of children from social life, the . . .

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