This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Factory Children: Child Industrial Labor in Imperial Russia, 1780-1914




Gorshkov, Boris

Type of Degree





Children comprised an extremely significant segment of the industrial labor force in Russia in Imperial Russia. In the mid-nineteenth century the average number of children aged sixteen and under employed in industry accounted for about 15 percent of all industrial workers, varying, however, in individual businesses from 0 to 40 percent. With the rapid development of the economy during the following decades, industry’s reliance on child labor became even greater. This dissertation investigates child industrial labor in Russia from the late eighteenth century until the outbreak of World War I, focusing particularly on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The major questions this dissertation attempts to answer are: What were the origins of child labor? What was the impact of industrialization on the employment and labor of children? What were the extent and dynamics of child labor in the era’s factories? What factors made child labor so attractive to industries? What was the social composition of children employed in industries, their workday, wages, and working conditions? How did factory labor affect the health of working children? What impact did children’s employment have on contemporary attitudes toward and debates about the issue and how did these debates affect tsarist social legislation? And finally, what was the impact of labor protection laws on child labor and children’s welfare? In more general terms, the dissertation seeks to explore a little known subject of Imperial Russia’s labor history. Additionally, through the lens of child labor, this dissertation explores certain tendencies in the late imperial Russian state and society. A major thesis of this dissertation is that during the late nineteenth century the widespread and intensive industrial employment of children, with resulting exploitation and decline of health, produced a transformation of attitudes about child labor from initial broad acceptance to condemnation, in particular among the ruling elites. The growing state and public concern about working children helped form new approaches to the issue especially among the state bureaucracy. This resulted in new legislative regulation of children’s employment, education, and welfare. All these developments provided an important foundation for general social legislation in Russia during the early twentieth century.