Labour's Apprentices

Labour's Apprentices: Working-Class Lads in Late Victorian and Edwardian England

Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Labour's Apprentices
    Book Description:

    Childs discusses working-class family life and considers the changes that becoming a wage earner and a contributor to the family economy made to a youth's status within the home. He explores the significance of publicly provided education for the working class and analyses the labour market for young males, focusing on apprenticeship, future job prospects, trade unions, and wage levels. Childs investigates the patterns of labour available to boys at that time, including street selling, half-time labour, and apprenticed versus "free" labour, arguing that these were major factors in the creation of a semi-skilled adult work force. Turning to leisure activities among working-class youths, Childs looks at street culture, commercial entertainments, and youth groups and movements and finds that each influenced the emergence of a more cohesive and class-conscious working class.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6346-9
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables and Figure
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-2)

    One historical constant is the tendency of all societies to agonize over the state of their youth — will they be ready and willing to act as fit guardians of the traditions of the past and the values of the present, and will they take this precious cargo into the future? In its relationship with its youth, every society faces a fundamental human dilemma: how does ephemeral and mortal humanity construct and maintain an enduring culture and civilization? The day we stop worrying about youth will be the day the human experiment declares bankruptcy.

    These fears may be a constant, but...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Youths and Working-Class Families
    (pp. 3-27)

    Since the primary source of identity and security for the working-class youths of late Victorian and Edwardian England was their families, any discussion of this group must begin with an examination of their home life — at once one of the most important and one of the most opaque subjects for social historians. The role of the family as an agency of nurture, protection, and socialization cannot be ignored if we want to understand the values and customs of the working class teenager. It was mainly within the home that the young child learned the realities of working-class life, that behavioural...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Education and Working-Class Youths
    (pp. 28-50)

    Since the school years of a member of the working class in this period properly fall outside the scope of this study, it may be argued that education is an unnecessary topic to explore. The youth’s earlier experiences of education, however, had wide repercussions on his subsequent career, particularly when he came to decide whether or not to continue into secondary or higher grade education or to attend the evening schools. Moreover, the uses of schooling in this period had a direct and increasing influence on the type of society that was produced in the years preceding World War I....

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Youth Labour Market
    (pp. 51-72)

    The working-class adolescent of late Victorian and Edwardian England was, for at least one-third of his time, an actual worker, employed in a multitude of functions among the nation’s industries and services. With one exception, however, the phenomenon of boy work has not been the subject of any sustained historical analysis in recent years.¹ This is a surprising gap, since a perusal of the literature of social issues of the period would show that it was a major topic of debate. Trade unionists cited the growing use of boys for non-vocational labour as a major source of journeyman unemployment, while...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Experience of Boy Labour
    (pp. 73-94)

    For a male member of the working class in the late Victorian and Edwardian era, there was rarely any neat chronological division between school and work. Long before the adolescent school-leaver began full-time employment, he was likely to have been in some way a member of the workforce. Throughout his childhood, the working-class boy had usually acted upon any opportunity to earn that had presented itself, these efforts ranging from occasional errand running to permanent and time-consuming employments out of school hours. Investigators in this period were often shocked at the proportion of schoolchildren who were part-time earners. In 1910,...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Youths on the Street
    (pp. 95-117)

    From his earliest years, the working–class boy had found the street, with its endless tapestry of inconsequential occurrences, to be his main source of entertainment and diversion. “‘When we were kids anything pass which was at all unusual attracted our attention — fire engines, which we chased; funerals, which we lined up to watch pass.”¹ It was in the lively street rather than in the dreary home that the young child was usually to be found out of school hours, indulging in games such as “whip and top, leapfrog, football, guinea, [and] lurky”, which often had histories stretching back into...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Commercial Entertainment and Working-Class Youths
    (pp. 118-139)

    The years 1870 to 1914 would rank as one of fundamental importance in any study of popular pastimes and recreation. Although the earlier characterization of the period 1820 to 1850 as the “dark age” of popular recreational history is no longer tenable,¹ the subsequent six decades witnessed the full fruition of previous trends and saw the emergence of a recognizably modern working-class style of leisure. In these longer-term developments, one can see the effects of the change from a pre-industrial, integrated way of life to an urban industrial and specialized lifestyle, in which leisure tends to become a discrete activity...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Organized Youth Movements
    (pp. 140-156)

    The apparent aimlessness and anarchic quality of street lounging and music hall going alarmed many middle-class observers, who saw these activities as factors working toward the creation of an undisciplined and irresponsible working class. One of the responses to this perceived trend was the creation of alternative youth recreation, solidly based upon middle-class ideals of patriotism, service, and responsibility. The period 1890 to 1914 saw an efflorescence of such organizations and institutions, catering to a successively broader range of youths and using increasingly subtler and more sophisticated methods to attract and hold the loyalty of boys.

    This development has drawn...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 157-162)

    Among the main aims of social history are those of recreating, as far as possible, the patterns of life of the past and of seeking a deeper understanding of the process of change by the exploration of the actions of ordinary people. In so doing, the part played by individually obscure people in the shaping of their world can be rescued from the anonymity to which it is consigned by more traditional history, while a fuller picture can be drawn of historical forces and their interactions. The present work has been impelled in large part by these objectives, with youth...

    (pp. 163-170)
    (pp. 171-176)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 177-206)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-220)
  18. Index
    (pp. 221-223)