Nineteenth-century migrants may have come here to escape oppressive laws, but the laws migrated too. It was late in the twentieth century that we abolished one of the most oppressive ones. Our origins are less humane than we like to pretend.
Wilkens Micawber was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. It is said that he is modelled on Charles Dickens’ father, who suffered a similar fate. Meanwhile, his twelve-year-old son had to work in a factory. He hated the experience. A debtors’ prison appears in The Pickwick Papers, as well as David Copperfield, and most extensively in Little Dorrit.