Resource : Captain Swing letter to Mr Biddle, farmer, High Wycombe

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).

Resource : The Apprehensive Man

The Great Famine was a period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland. It lead to the migration of perhaps two million Irish people.

Resource : Tolpuddle Martyrs Sculpture

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.