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This Sceptred Isle

The Last Whig Government and the Working Classes
It is around this time that we begin to see the emergence of two strong political parties. The term Liberal is beginning to be heard. The Whigs, Peelites and Radicals joined together under this title. Meanwhile Lord Derby and Disraeli headed the new style Conservatives.

Queen Victoria had reigned for a decade. Reform was in the air though working conditions in many industries was still appalling. By 1847 the Ten Hour bill got through - this limited working hours to a 10-hour day.

Lord John Russell
Lord John Russell

  • First Earl Russell
  • Whig MP and Prime Minister 1846-1852 and 1865-1866
  • MP for the City of Westminster 1843-1861
  • Interested in Parliamentary reform culminating in the 1832 Reform Act
  • Home and then Colonial Secretary before becoming leader of the Commons in Melbourne's administration 1835-1841
  • Became Prime Minister in 1846 after the repeal of the Corn Laws
  • Was Foreign Secretary to Aberdeen and Palmerston
  • Resigned over the Crimean war
  • Became Prime Minister again in 1865 but resigned soon after over suffrage reform

did you know?
Lord John Russell's administration in 1846-1852 was the last Whig Government. After this Peelites, Whigs and Radicals joined together and became known as the Liberals.


From the whole of the evidence which has been collected, and of which we have thus endeavoured to give a digest, we find, in regard to Coal Mines:

That instances occur in which Children are taken into these mines to work as early as four years of age .... while from eight to nine is the ordinary age at which employment in these mines commences.

That a very large proportion of the persons employed in carrying on the work of these mines is under thirteen years of age.

That in several districts female Children begin to work in these mines at the same early ages as the males.

That the nature of the employment which is assigned to the youngest children, generally that of trapping, requires that they should be in the pit as soon as the work of the day commences, and according to the present system, that they should not leave the pit before the work of the day is at an end ...

That in the districts in which females are taken down into the coal mines both sexes are employed together in precisely the same kind of labour, and work for the same number of hours; that the girls and the boys, and the young men and the young women, and even married women and women with child, commonly work almost naked, and the men, in many mines, quite naked; ...

That in the East of Scotland, a much larger proportion of Children and Young Persons are employed in these mines than in other districts, many of whom are girls; and that the chief part of their labour consists in carrying coals on their backs up steep ladders.

The younger Children are roughly used by their older companions; while in many mines the conduct of the adult colliers to the Children who assist them is harsh and cruel; the persons in authority in these mines, who must be cognizant of this ill-usage, never interfering to prevent it, and some of them distinctly stating that they do not conceive that they have any right to do so.

Select historical period

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1834 Melbourne becomes Prime Minister
Robert Peel becomes Prime Minister
Tamworth Manifesto is announced
Houses of Parliament are burned down
1835Melbourne becomes Prime Minister
1837William IV dies
Victoria becomes Queen
1838 The People's Charter is issued
1839 The Opium War breaks out
1840 Victoria marries Prince Albert
1841 Peel becomes Prime Minister
1842 The Opium War ends
1845The Irish famine starts
1846 The corn laws are repealed
Russell becomes Prime Minister
1848 Public Health Act
1851 The Great Exhibition
Louis Napoleon seizes power in France
1854 The Crimean War breaks out
Florence Nightingale arrives at Scutari
1855 Palmerston becomes Prime Minister
1856The Treaty of Paris ends the Crimean War

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