[LMB] Dark Brittanic Mills

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 23 19:40:05 BST 2019

Richard Molpus:
Being legally trapped to farm labor was ended with the creation of factory jobs in towns and cities. The formal legal name for that bondage to the land isn't important; that city life was a better option than farm life is.

Gwynne: Factory work and city life led to a shorter lifespan than working in the country.
People in the country had a community, they supported each other. The networks broke
down when they were forced into the cities.

And they were forced. Once you lost your job in the country you went on the Parish.
There were no unemployment benefits, no national system of payments for the aged
and infirm. Each parish supported charity cases. There was often a limit: the local
upper classes donated money, and often built and supported cottages for a certain
number of needy people - older workers who had no family to support them, widows,
orphans, etc. The parish supported its own.

But there were limits, and as the industrial revolution bit harder, more and more lost
their jobs and each parish could only take on so many. Others had to move on. But the
next parish couldn't take them either, or the next... so the unemployed were forced
into the cities. And it was force: some parishes were quite vigorous about  moving the
poor on to the next parish. Sometimes they'd give a certain number of days before they
had to move on. And there was no option to stay. Eventually the cities were just about
the only option left to them.

There wasn't much help for them there, either. The factories chewed up
quite a few, but not nearly all.

Crime was rampant. The government responded by making more and more crimes
capital offences. At one point there were more than 200 crimes that could be
punished by hanging.

Eventually even that didn't clear out the problem, so they sent boatloads of convicts
away. First to America, to work in the plantations. After the War of Independence
they dug out the old maps of Captain Cook's discovery of a land to the south, and
so they started the colony in New South Wales. (Now, of course, Australia.)

Um, yes, I've done the odd spot of historical research now and then. How could you tell?

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list