The Industrial Revolution was the passage from the slow making of products in homes to the rapid making of well-finished products in factories. The Industrial Revolution took place in Britain because Britain was rich in coal, which provided energy for the factories, and could count on cheap raw materials coming from its colonies. Moreover, the invention of the steam engine, and consequently of machines, was a basic reason. So Britain turned from an agricultural, where most people lived in the country and worked in the fields - since all work was done by hand - into an industrialized nation. Factories were built in the cities and many families left the countryside to go and work in these new factories. But the living and working conditions of the working classes were very poor: they lived in small, dark houses or workhouses in unhealthy disricts called "slums". Read more about houses in the past or the inventions that affected our lives. In Victorian times, many children and women worked twelve - fourteen hours a day in factories. Besides working at the factory, most women worked at home: housework was very hard without running water, gas or electric cookers. Read more about food in the past in U.K.. Many children worked in coal mines where they pushed to the coal-trucks or as "scavengers" (employed to remove filth and garbage). Others worked in factories or lived in the streets, as orphans, cleaning the muddy roads. Some others were called "mud larks" because they dived into the dirty water of the Thames to look for pieces of iron to sell. William Shelley describes his work conditions in a factory, when he was a boy: "I worked from 6 o'clock a.m. until 8 o'clock p.m. At 12 we stopped for half an hour for lunch. The food was a mixture of water, potatoes, a bit of bread and some mill. We were like slaves". The life in workhouse was even worse: the people there did unpleasant work in return for a little food and some shelters. William and Catherine Booth created the Salvation Army in 1878 to help poor, hungry people. In 1884 an Act of Parliament limited the working hours of women (12 hours) and children ( 6 hours). Read more about school in the past in U.K.. However, children often died of cold, hunger and disease. Some of them sold newspapers, matches or flowers in the street in the rain! Others cleaned the streets, people's shoes or chimneys! Today there are still places in the world where children cannot go to school because they must work full time. Read more about "no school in Indonesia". They are paid very little or nothing and they work in bad conditions. There are probably two hundred millions child workers in the world. Child labour is still a huge social problem and not only in third world countries!

In late Victorian times, farm children, went out into the fields with their fathers. Everyone was expected to lend a hand with the harvest. The workers cut and raked the hay, then loaded it onto hay carts by hand. There were jobs for children at other times of the year, too. In spring, young boys often worked as scarecrows! They made a noise by clapping two boards together, rattling stones in a tin, or shouting to scare the birds away from the crops. In 1900 country children were needed to help on the farm, feeding the geese and chickens, and milking the cows. They often only went to school part-time, or left school before the age of 10. In the past many workers were needed to do the jobs now done by machinery. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK) (the Victorian Web)