Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

Children’s work and wages in Britain, 1280-1860

Humphries, Jane and Horrell, Sara (2019) Children’s work and wages in Britain, 1280-1860. Explorations in Economic History, 73. ISSN 0014-4983

[img] Text (children's wages) - Accepted Version
Download (628kB)

Identification Number: 10.1016/j.eeh.2019.04.001


Child workers are commonplace in historical sources but rarely feature in the grand narratives of economic history. Recently, however, new theories have identified changes in children’s economic value as key to economic and demographic trends in Britain but there has been little data with which to examine these putative effects. Prompted by these ideas, we present data on payments, both in cash and in kind, made to 3873 children from 1280 to 1860. Children’s wages show some similarities in their trajectories to those found for adults. Real wages increased after the Black Death and stayed at a high level through the C16th; but they then suffered a decline which was only checked in the mid-C18th and not reversed even when industrialisation was underway. Indeed, remuneration for child workers progressively fell away from that of unskilled adult males from the C16th. Until the late C17th, children working on annual contracts suffered the same disadvantage compared with day labourers as found for adults. Regression analysis controls for variation in our sample over time and reveals predictable relationships with key variables such as age, industry, sector and region. Children were an integral part of historic labour markets and their wages reflected economic factors. Knowledge of children’s work and wages helps illuminate aspects of recent theories on Britain’s historical growth.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 Elsevier Inc.
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income, and Wealth > N33 - Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income and Wealth: Europe: Pre-1913
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2019 09:30
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:38

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics