Life and adventures of Michael Armstrong : the factory boy (Trollope, Fanny)(2007, paperback)

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The first ‘industrial’ novel to appear in Britain, Michael Armstrong is an unforgiving exploration of nineteenth-century child labour. First published in 1840, it tells the story of Sir Matthew Dowling, a wealthy businessman who adopts a young factory boy, Michael. He uses the child to demonstrate his willingness to help the poor, but, quickly tiring of him, sends him to an establishment for unwanted pauper children. The young Michael escapes, and a series of dangerous adventures follows. Underpinning this story is the message that individual philanthropy was incapable of solving the wider social ills that grew from nineteenth-century industrialisation, a message which solicited much contemporary criticism for the author, who was ridiculed for writing about the ‘vulgar’ and the ‘low-bred’. Today, however, this is a novel which is celebrated for its’ pioneering attack upon the social problems that plagued the era in which Trollope lived, as well as being regarded as one of the finest examples of the literary achievements of this remarkable woman.