an independent academic publisher since 1985

book details

Bookmark and Share
Factory Lives 

Factory Lives

Four Nineteenth-Century Working-Class Autobiographies

Edited by: James R. Simmons, Jr.

Series: Broadview Editions

Publication Date: January 01, 2007
496pp • Paperback / PDF / ePub
ISBN: 9781551112725 / 1551112728

Broadview's ebooks run on the industry-standard Adobe Digital Editions platform. Learn more about ebooks here. If you don't already have Adobe, we caution you that it may take some time to set up. Please note that most Broadview books are also available through other platforms—such as Google Play—that do not rely on the same software.

Buy Now

View Table of Contents

Factory Lives contains four works of great importance in the field of nineteenth-century working-class autobiography: John Brown's A Memoir of Robert Blincoe; William Dodd's A Narrative of the Experience and Sufferings of William Dodd; Ellen Johnston's "Autobiography"; and James Myles's Chapters in the Life of a Dundee Factory Boy.

This Broadview edition also includes a remarkably rich selection of historical documents that provide context for these works. Appendices include contemporary responses to the autobiographies, debates on factory legislation, transcripts of testimony given before parliamentary committees on child labour, and excerpts from literary works on factory life by Harriet Martineau, Frances Trollope, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, among others.  


"Factory Lives is a wonderful and wonderfully affordable resource for anyone who teaches British nineteenth-century literature, culture, or history. The text does a real service by providing a representative sampling of working-class autobiographies from this period. The engagingly learned introduction by Janice Carlisle provides a rich and wide-ranging contextualization that will help teachers and students approach these texts from a variety of theoretical and disciplinary angles. I cannot imagine teaching a course on the Condition of England novel without including this collection on my reading list." - Elaine Hadley, University of Chicago  

"This eye-opening edition of working-class autobiographies written by men and women who labored in the harsh industrial system of Victorian Britain is a useful addition to our understanding of the era's full human costs in terms of physical and psychological suffering. It is an engaging emotional experience to read these carefully selected accounts of individuals working long hours in the mills and factories. The collection of official reports and legislative documents that attempted to bring social reforms places these autobiographies in their full and proper historical and political contexts. An added bonus of the edition is the inclusion of a range of contemporary poetry and fiction on industrial life." - William B. Thesing, University of South Carolina

James R. Simmons, Jr. is Associate Professor of English at Louisiana Tech University.

Janice Carlisle is Professor of English at Yale University. 

Academics please note that this is a title classified as having a restricted allocation of complimentary copies. While the availability of bound complimentary copies is restricted to desk copies only, electronic complimentary copies are readily available for those professors wishing to consider this title for possible course adoption. Should you choose to adopt the book after viewing an electronic copy we will be happy to provide a bound desk copy.

Table of Contents: [Back to Top]


Introduction, Janice Carlisle

Significant Nineteenth-Century Factory Legislation and Factory Literature: A Brief Chronology

A Note on the Text, Elizabeth Reed  

John Brown, A Memoir of Robert Blincoe, An Orphan Boy (1832)  

William Dodd, A Narrative of the Experience and Sufferings of William Dodd, A Factory Cripple. Written by Himself (1841)

James Myles, Chapters in the Life of a Dundee Factory Boy (1850)

Ellen Johnston, "Autobiography of Ellen Johnston, 'The Factory Girl'" (1867) and "Autobiography" (1869)

Appendix A: Contemporary Perspectives on A Memoir of Robert Blincoe

  1. A Correspondent to The Lion, "Confirmation of the Memoir of Robert Blincoe" (14 March 1828) 

  2. A Friend at Manchester, "Confirmation of Blincoe's Printed Memoir By Himself" (28 March 1828) 

  3. Robert Blincoe, Testimony before the 1833 Royal Commission on the Employment of Children in Factories 

  4. Substantive Changes in Doherty’s 1832 Edition of the Memoir

Appendix B: Contemporary Perspectives on William Dodd’s Narrative

  1. Lord Ashley and John Bright, from the debate of 15 March 1844, House of Commons 

  2. William Dodd, from The Laboring Classes of England (1847)

Appendix C: Contemporary Perspectives on Myles's Chapters in the Life of a Dundee Factory Boy

  1. James Myles, from Rambles in Forfarshire (1850) 

  2. William Norrie, from Dundee Celebrities of the Nineteenth Century (1873): James Myles, Robert Nicoll, and William Jackson

Appendix D: Contemporary Perspectives on Johnston's "Autobiography": Selected Poems from Autobiography, Poems and Songs of Ellen Johnston, 'The Factory Girl' (1867 and 1869)

  1. "The Working Man"

  2. "Kennedy's Dear Mill"

  3. "An Address to Napiers' Dockyard"

  4. "Lord Raglan's Address to the Allied Armies"

  5. "The Last Sark"

  6. "To my Aunt Phemie"

  7. "An Address to Nature on its Cruelty"

  8. "Lines to Mr James Dorward"

  9. "Lines by Edith to the Factory Girl"

  10. "The Factory Girl's Reply to 'Lines by Edith'"

  11. "The Factory Girl's Reply to Edith"

  12. "Lines to Mr G.D. Russell"

  13. "The Last Lay of 'The Factory Girl'"

Appendix E: Contemporary Documents: Parliamentary Testimony as Autobiography

  1. Charles Aberdeen, Testimony before the 1832 Committee on the Labour of Children in Factories 

  2. Elizabeth Bentley, Testimony before the 1832 Committee on the Labour of Children in Factories

Appendix F: Factory Life: Contemporary Views

  1. Harriet Martineau, from A Manchester Strike (1832) 

  2. Andrew Ure, from The Philosophy of Manufactures (1835) 

  3. From The Young Folks of the Factory (1840) 

  4. Frances Trollope, from Michael Armstrong (1840)

  5. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "The Cry of the Children" (1843)

  6. R. Arthur Arnold, from The History of the Cotton Famine (1864)

Appendix G: Factory Legislation: Contemporary Views

  1. Richard Oastler, "The White Slaves of Yorkshire" (1830)

  2. Caroline Norton, A Voice from the Factories (1836) 

  3. John Fielden, from The Curse of the Factory System (1836)

  4. Robert Hyde Greg, from The Factory Question and the "Ten Hours Bill" (1837)

  5. Frances Trollope, from Michael Armstrong (1840) 

  6. Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna, from Helen Fleetwood (1841)

Select Bibliography

Academics teaching relevant courses may request examination copies of titles to consider for text adoption. We ask that you limit your examination copy requests to three or fewer at a time; if you are not confident that you will adopt the book, please help us keep costs down by ordering it instead. If in the future you do decide to assign as a course text a book you have previously ordered personally, Broadview Press will be happy to refund your money.

Factory Lives

2007 • 496pp • Paperback • 9781551112725 / 1551112728

Instructors – Planning your syllabi? Consider this book for course use.

Request Exam Copy


Broadview Press acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund, and also acknowledges the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation. Freehand Books, an imprint of Broadview, acknowledges the support of the Canadian Council of the Arts.