By Robert McIntosh
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Extra info for Boys in the Pits: Child Labour in Coal Mines
Coal was the basic fuel of the industrial transformation of the nineteenth century. From the 1850s onward, it was used increasingly in both railway and stationary steam engines, to propel ocean shipping, and to heat homes and other buildings. Coal’s importance to nineteenth-century industrial society can scarcely be overestimated – a significance akin to petroleum’s role today. ” 25 Annual coal consumption increased from perhaps threequarters of a million tons at Confederation to three and a half million tons in 1886.
In contrast, they were far less successful on Vancouver Island in their efforts to employ their boys. Employers’ ready access to Asian labourers, linked with provincial legislation in 1877 restricting child mine labour, produced relatively low levels of child labour on the Pacific coast. And in the mines of the western interior, developed at the end of the nineteenth century, immature local coal communities offered a limited local supply of boys. Their workforces were based on transient adult males, and only a handful of boys ever laboured in these mines.
New views of an appropriate childhood slowly percolated into coal towns and villages. fm Page 13 Wednesday, July 12, 2000 9:20 AM Introduction 13 Aid Societies. Miners’ unions warmly endorsed new definitions of childhood. Over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the mining community began to shift its views regarding the employment of boys in the pits. Chapter 8, which examines boys’ response to their experience in the coalfields, looks at the relationships that boys entered into within the mine and the unique identity they acquired through these relationships.