Entry to the metropolitan labour market in Victorian and Edwardian Britain
In studying the Victorian city, historical geographers have concentrated on defining patterns, structures and form at the expense of processes. It is suggested that it is only via the study of processes and structures within the urban economy that such spatial patterns and developments can be fully understood. It is further advanced that amongst economic structures, the labour market is an area of fundamental importance in reaching any understanding of the Victorian and Edwardian city, and in particular London. The subject of the late Victorian labour market is approached via a review of modern labour market theory and subsequently of the ideas advanced by the classical economists. This review reveals both the importance of empirical observation in informing contemporary economists' theoretical models of the Victorian labour market and the significant degree to which the debate within the modern theoretical literature derives directly, although largely anonymously, from parallel arguments in the earlier literature. An attempt is made to establish how far the casual labour problem in late Victorian London, the subject of considerable concern and debate amongst the contemporary commentators, fits into the Dual or Segmented Labour Market paradigms advanced principally by American economists since the 1960s. The emphasis given by contemporary commentators to boy labour as a source of the casual labour problem is seen to reflect a similar emphasis on the importance of the point of entry to the labour market in the theoretical literature. The social and economic importance of the boy labour problem in Victorian and Edwardian London is explored and explained as in part a consequence of the demographic and economic conditions prevailing in the capital at the close of the century, but also as reflecting a continuing economic imperative and culture of child labour and the impact of legislative intervention in the labour market.