Ragged Schools: Educational Opportunities for Destitute Children in 19th century England


  • Brenda Stapleton Wichita State University


child labor, crime rate, free education, Industrial Revolution, missionary services, overpopulation, poor children, ragged schools, working class


Beginning in the 1750s the industrial revolution changed the way in which many citizens lived in Britain. Before the Revolution, eighty percent of citizens lived in rural areas. However, due to agricultural advancements which allowed more food to be grown by less people this changed. As fewer people were needed on the farms, many migrated from their rural homes to the developing urban areas to look for jobs in factories and mines. The cities where these factories were located were rapidly built and little planning went into their design. This new urban working class lived in overpopulated, unsanitary parts of the cities and were also not guaranteed work once they moved to the city. Industrialization had its ups and downs and, therefore, so did the job market. Workers were constantly dealing with fluctuating employment. For those who could not find any work, they often resorted to begging, lying, and stealing as an alternative. Sadly, this was not a cross bared solely by the adults of the working class; many children also learned this way of life as well.