Daily Life in Victorian England

By Sally Mitchell | Go to book overview

3 Working Life

GENERAL CONDITIONS

Most Victorians--men, women, and even children--worked long and hard at jobs that required more physical labor than present-day occupations. There were few laws to regulate hours, wages, safety, job security, or working conditions. Workers generally had no contracts, no pensions, and no fringe benefits. Trade unions developed slowly, although by the end of the period the concentration of workers in some fields and the weakening of laws against "combination" allowed labor to organize and to make some significant improvements, especially in hours and working conditions.

The work day and the work week were extremely long. In agriculture, labor from sunup to sundown during the busy summer days was not unusual. Other outdoor jobs (building, hauling, dockwork) followed the same pattern: long days in summer, when it was light, and short hours (which also meant short wages) in winter. Retail shops stayed open- with the same employees on duty--for fourteen or sixteen hours a day. Needleworkers stitched almost constantly, day and night, when trade was busy and were laid off (without pay) between seasons. Domestic servants got up before the rest of the household, went to bed last, and were on call at any moment during the day--although there were slack times when they could read or relax in the kitchen.

For most workers except servants, Sunday was a day of rest. Saturday, however, was not; people worked six days a week. Later in the period, "short Saturdays" became customary: Saturday work ended in midaf-

-41-

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Daily Life in Victorian England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Chronology: Chief Events of the Victorian Age in England ix
  • Introduction: The Victorians and Their World xiii
  • 1 - A Brief History of Victorian England 1
  • 2 - The Foundations of Daily Life 17
  • 3 - Working Life 41
  • 4 - Technology, Science, and the Urban World 71
  • 5 - Official Life 87
  • 7 - Family and Social Rituals 141
  • 8 - Education 165
  • 9 - Health and Medicine 189
  • 10 - Leisure and Pleasure 209
  • 11 - Faith and Works 239
  • 12 - Victorian Morality 259
  • 13 - England and Empire 273
  • Glossary 293
  • For Further Reading 299
  • Index 303
  • About the Author 313
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