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In Praise of Industry: Early Nineteenth-Century Concepts of Work

Symposium

Abstract

Benjamin Franklin's various addresses in Poor Richard’s Almanack, published from 1732–1758, urged the nascent American nation to seek success through “industry.” For Franklin and many others of the early Industrial Revolution in both the colonies and Britain proper, the advances in technology meant a new outlook for success. The creative, the tinkerers, the doers of this new age held the keys of the future, and their work became the prima exemplar of the spirit of the age. Yet, for all the successes of the few who launched their futures in this period, there were many who were unable to break free from the proverbial Weberian “Iron Cage.” Extreme poverty crippled not only large portions of Britain in urban centers such as London but also in more rural environments such as Cheddar, a city to which we will later turn.

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