In the 1700s, work was localised and family-orientated, largely agricultural and driven by hand and horse labour. But innovations in steam power and the design of machinery in the late 1700s and early 1800s transformed manufacturing and the way people lived and worked. In the 1820s and 30s, factors such as increasing industrialisation, poor harvests and, specifically, the introduction of the threshing machine meant farming wages were low, working conditions poor and unemployment high. Agricultural workers in the South and East of England protested in what became known as the Swing riots (or agricultural labourers’ risings).
This satirical cartoon, by George Cruikshank, is a comment on what became known as the Corn Laws – one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation ever to be introduced by the British Government.
The Great Famine was a period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland. It lasted from 1845 to 1851, killing one million Irish people and leading to the migration of perhaps two million more. It became a watershed in Ireland’s history, permanently changing the demographic, political and cultural landscape. The ‘Apprehensive Man’ is one of a series of five bronze sculptures in the ‘Arrival’ series created by Irish artist Rowan Gillespie in 2007 and situated in Ireland Park in Toronto, Canada. It marks the arrival of thousands of starving Irish migrants in 1847.
In 1834, six farm workers were arrested and transported to Australia as a result of banding together to improve the miserable wages of farm labourers. The maltreatment of the ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’, as they became known, helped pave the way for the creation of trade unions and the protection of employees’ rights.