“When my mother died I was very young, and my father sold me while yet my tongue could scarcely cry “Weep! Weep! Weep! Weep!”, so your chimneys I sweep and in soot I sleep.” -William Blake
Blake, explaining the hardships of a young chimney sweeper reflected on the issue of child labour rampant during the 18th century in England.
Records of child labour as servants in domestic households of noblemen can be traced throughout the human history though it reached its extremes with Industrial Revolution in the late 17th century in England. Peter Thonemann of Wadham College, Oxford, in Children in the Roman Empire, states that slaves and children of lower birth in the Roman Empire started to work as soon as they were physically capable of doing such work. For example, “The tombstone of Quintus Artulus who died at the age of four at the silver mines of Banos de la Encina in Andalusia, depicts the child in a short tunic, barefoot, carrying the tools of his trade, a miner’s axe and basket.”, exhibiting the existence of child labour during ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. In the Indian context, child labour has existed in the country since times immemorial as children and their parents used to work together in the farms for it served the purpose of training children for their future. (more…)