Perry Anderson writes:
Although quite different in mode and scale, in power nothing like it has appeared since E.P. Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class … The product of seven years’ research and interview work on the ground, it is an ethnographic and analytic masterpiece … Lee’s capture of the voices of those caught in the relentless industrial mechanisms of the Reform Era, in one poignant interview after another, is among the finest accomplishments of her book. The stories are often heartbreaking, but the accents with which they are told speak of courage, indignation, stoicism, even humour, as much as bitterness, resignation or despair. Few sociological studies have combined structural and existential, objective and subjective truths so memorably as this one.