Liberty's Dawn A People's History of the Industrial Revolution Emma Griffin

Publication date:
15 Mar 2013
Yale University Press
320 pages: 229 x 152mm

This remarkable book looks at hundreds of autobiographies penned between 1760 and 1900 to offer an intimate firsthand account of how the Industrial Revolution was experienced by the working class. The Industrial Revolution brought not simply misery and poverty. On the contrary, Griffin shows how it raised incomes, improved literacy, and offered exciting opportunities for political action. For many, this was a period of new, and much valued, sexual and cultural freedom.
This rich personal account focuses on the social impact of the Industrial Revolution, rather than its economic and political histories. In the tradition of best-selling books by Liza Picard, Judith Flanders, and Jerry White, Griffin gets under the skin of the period and creates a cast of colorful characters, including factory workers, miners, shoemakers, carpenters, servants, and farm laborers.

Emma Griffin is professor of history at the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich, UK.

Liberty’s Dawn is a triumph, achieved in fewer than 250 gracefully written pages. They persuasively purvey Griffin’s historical conviction. She is intimate with her audience, wooing it and teasing it along the way.”—Anthony Fletcher, Times Literary Supplement

“An admirably intimate and expansive revisionist history.”Publishers Weekly

“A provocative study.”—The New Yorker

“This is a brave book that challenges accepted wisdom by offering a decidedly optimistic view of the impact of the Industrial Revolution on the opportunities, freedoms and choices available to the working class.”—Pat Hudson, Times Higher Education Supplement

“Griffin’s crisp and accessible prose rests on a foundation of scrupulous scholarship.”—Amanda Vickery, The Guardian

‘Griffin’s excellent history of writing by those born in poverty. . .shine[s] a light on what working men endured. . .and what they felt about it, in their own words.’—Lesley McDowell, Sunday Herald

“In this marvelous book, Liberty’s Dawn, Emma Griffin introduces us to or reacquaints us with 350 of the William Aitkens of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Britain—lower-class men and a handful of women who wrote autobiographies, some of them printed, many of them manuscript accounts discovered in repositories across the country.”—Brian Lewis, McGill University