Battle to end child slavery in the mills

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A major new book on the 19th-century campaign to end child slavery in Yorkshire’s textile mills has been launched in Huddersfield.

The book, Slavery in Yorkshire: Richard Oastler and the campaign against child labour in the Industrial Revolution, tells how reformer Oastler fought to curb working hours by youngsters of between seven and 14 years of age who were forced to work shifts of up to 13 hours in the mills with only a half hour’s break for lunch.

His campaign led to the 1847 Factory Act, which restricted children to a 10-hour day in cotton mills. But it was not until after his death, in 1861, that the act was widened to include children working in all factories.

The book launch took place at Fixby Hall, where, in 1821, Oastler became steward and wrote his famous “Slavery in Yorkshire” letter, published in the Leeds Mercury, which drew attention to the scandal of the child workers.

Fixby Hall is now the home of Huddersfield Golf Club, which hosted the launch with publisher Huddersfield University Press.The book, with chapters by a number of eminent historians, was edited by Halifax historian Dr John Hargreaves – who was among the speakers at the launch – and Hilary Haigh, of Huddersfield University.