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The Health of Children

One of the major reasons for Life expectancy figures to be so poor was the high number of deaths amongst children. Even those who survived childhood were often in a very unhealthy state as they entered adult life. This was a result of poor diet, pollution and sheer hard work. Legislation was introduced over the course of the 19th century that was aimed at improving the lives of children. In Bradford, and later across the country, there were moves to improve health through the education system. Free School Meals and medical checks were introduced in the city (prior to Government legislation) and later nationwide by the Liberal Government (1906-1912).

These sources provide an insight into some of the changes. The first is an extract from Margaret McMillan's recollections of children in Bradford circa 1890. This is followed by evidence from the National Archives in which the impact of school meals in Bradford by 1907 is analysed. Parliamentary debates are included to provide a further example of what the health of children was like at the height of industrialisation which is followed by a final source, again from parliament, in which an alternative view is provided.

Things to think about:

  1. What was done to improve the health of Children?
  2. How successful were attempts to improve children's health by 1907?

 

Source 1

The condition of the poorer children was worse than anything that was described or painted. It was a thing that this generation is glad to forget. The neglect of infants, the utter neglect almost of toddlers and older children, the blight of early labour, all combined to make of a once vigorous people a race of undergrown and spoiled adolescents; and just as people looked on at the torture two hundred years ago and less, without any great indignation, so in the 1890s people saw the misery of poor children without perturbation.

Margaret McMillan

Source 2

City of Bradford Education Committee Report by the Medical Superintendent, Ralph H Crowley M.D., M.R.C.P. in conjunction with the Superintendent of Domestic Subjects, Marian E. Cuff, on a Course of Meals given to Necessitous Children from April to July, 1907.

Source 3

City of Bradford Education Committee Report by the Medical Superintendent, Ralph H Crowley M.D., M.R.C.P. in conjunction with the Superintendent of Domestic Subjects, Marian E. Cuff, on a Course of Meals given to Necessitous Children from April to July, 1907.

Source 4

City of Bradford Education Committee Report by the Medical Superintendent, Ralph H Crowley M.D., M.R.C.P. in conjunction with the Superintendent of Domestic Subjects, Marian E. Cuff, on a Course of Meals given to Necessitous Children from April to July, 1907.

Source 5

City of Bradford Education Committee Report by the Medical Superintendent, Ralph H Crowley M.D., M.R.C.P. in conjunction with the Superintendent of Domestic Subjects, Marian E. Cuff, on a Course of Meals given to Necessitous Children from April to July, 1907.

Source 6

When I visited Bradford, in Yorkshire, in 1838, being desirous to see the condition of the children--for I knew that they were employed at very early ages in the worsted business....I asked for a collection of cripples and deformities. In a short time more than 80 were gathered in a large courtyard. They were mere samples of the entire mass. I assert without exaggeration that no power of language could describe the varieties, and I may say, the cruelties, in all these degradations of the human form. They stood or squatted before me in all the shapes of the letters of the alphabet. This was the effect of prolonged toil on the tender frames of children at early ages. When I visited Bradford, under the limitation of hours some years afterwards, I called for a similar exhibition of cripples; but, God be praised! there was not one to be found in that vast city. [Hansard's Parliamentary Debates. Apr. 4, 1879. 3rd Series, vol. CCXLV, pp. 355-356.]

Source 7

People, particularly in the poorer districts, lived nowhere near as long as we do today. There was little or no control over what could be built and no public provision of sewerage or piped, clean water. Consequently infant mortality rates were incredibly high - one in five children could not expect to live beyond their first birthday.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/sense_of_place/hidden_esholt_1.shtml

Source 8

Cellar in York Street (Manchester), a man, his wife, family altogether comprising seven persons: income £2/7/-, or 6/8½d per head. Rent 2/-. Here the family occupy two filthy unwholesome cellars. However defective the factories may be, they are all of them drier and more equably warm than the residences of the parent. It is an appalling fact that of all who are born of the labouring classes in Manchester, more than 57% die before they attain 5 years of age: that is, before they can be engaged in factory labour, or in any other labour whatsoever.

 

 

 

 

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