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Owen, Robert (1771–1858)

Christian A. Griggs


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Robert Owen was a nineteenth-century reformer, spiritualist, and utopian socialist who believed a person's character was the product of their environment. Known as the founder of socialist ideals in Britain, throughout his life he strived to improve the condition of the working class during the earliest stages of the Industrial Revolution. Owen was born in Newtown, Montgomeryshire in Wales to parents of humble origins and experienced a happy childhood in his large family. He excelled in school, showing a love of reading, but his formal instruction ended prematurely when sent to work at age nine. He found employment in the cloth industry, initially as the apprentice of a draper in Stamford, Lincolnshire before taking jobs in London and then Manchester. Owen was educated in industry and business and showed potential, in 1792 taking a position as factory manager for Peter Drinkwater in Manchester, overseeing 500 employees at a salary of £300 per year. The factory prospered under his guidance, known for the quality of its thread and efficiency of its workers. By 1796 Owen was an established businessman and joined the Manchester Board of Health and the Literary and Philosophical Society, placing him in contact with humanitarians helping him to develop ideas for reform. In 1798 Owen traveled to the mill of New Lanark in Glasgow and met with the owner, David Dale. The next year, he and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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