Chapter 6: Chadwick on Labor, Education, and the Business Cycle
INTRODUCTION In 1950 R.A. Lewis analyzed Edwin Chadwick’s reaction to the railway laborer’s situation, writing that, ‘The episode exhibits his best qualities as a man and as a reformer – his sense of public duty, his courage, his contempt for the power of wealth, his sympathy for an exploited class’ (Lewis 1950: 107). While this is only partly correct, attributing as it does a strictly humanitarian motive to Chadwick, there can be little doubt of his deep and analytical concern for the nineteenth-century laborer.1 Nor can there be doubt as to the extent of Chadwick’s knowledge concerning the conditions of the wage classes, the importance of education and human capital, technology, and the impact of these on the business cycle. Chadwick’s long romance with the empirical led him to gather, first hand, information concerning many aspects of the living and working conditions of the English workforce – more than any observer up to his time. Chadwick’s Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain (1842a) is sufficient evidence of the dimensions of his knowledge, as is his expertise on the labor conditions of railway workers (1846). Lewis’ article was an attempt to correct the record so far as Chadwick’s reputation on the wage classes was concerned. Historically, Chadwick’s image had been that of a repressor of the laboring population, an attitude that had developed principally from Chadwick’s work on the Poor Law Act of 1834 and the ensuing turmoil during his tenure as Secretary to the Poor Law...
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