Deaths in British Coal Mines, 1838




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Deaths in British Coal Mines, 1838

 One of the features of British industry which most worried reformers was the large number of children who were killed in work-related accidents. These accidents were particularly common in coal-mining and were more likely to be fatal than in other industries. The following table gives a breakdown of deaths in coalmine accidents for 1838, with figures for children (under 13 years of age), adolescents (13 to 18 years of age) and adults (over 18 years of age).



Examine the figures in the table below and answer the following questions:

1. How big a problem were child and adolescent death in British coalmining in 1838?

2. What were the most likely causes of death in each of the three age groups? (You may wish to use percentages)

3. What do these figures reveal about the division of labour between adults, adolescents and children in coal mines?

4. Are there other causes of death which are not mentioned in the table but which may have been work- related? What are these other causes of death?

5. How reliable is this type of statistical evidence in assessing industrial working conditions in England in the nineteenth century?

6. What other types of evidence would you need in order to make a fuller assessment of working conditions in British industry?


An imperfect abstract from the registration of deaths for the year 1838, gives a total, in England alone, of 349 deaths by violence in coal mines, and shows the most common causes of them:

 


Cause of death

Under 13

years


of age

13 and not

exceeding 18

years of age


Over 18

years


of age

Total

Fell down the shafts

13

12

31

56

Fell down the shaft from the rope breaking

1



2

3

Fell out when ascending





3

3

Drawn over the pulley

3



3

6

Fall of stone out of a skip down the shaft

1



3

4

Drowned in the mines

3

4

15

22

Fall of stones, coal, and rubbish in the mines

14

14

69

97

Injuries in coal-pits, the nature of which is not specified

6

3

32

41

Crushed in coal-pits



1

1

2

Explosion of gas

13

18

49

80

Suffocation of choke-damp



2

6

8

Explosion of gunpowder



1

3

4

By tram-wagons

4

5

12

21

Total

58

60

229

347

 This table is taken from John Saville (ed.) Working Conditions in the Victorian Age (Westnead, Gregg International, 1973)



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