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This is a very difficult question because it is hard to know how much of a value to put on freedom. There is no question that working conditions were terrible in the mills of Bradford and other parts of Yorkshire. There is no question that the workers' lives outside work were unpleasant as well. However, they were free. They were not liable to being sold away from their families. They were not owned by masters who could sexually abuse them at will or who could inflict terrible punishments on them. Of course, they were in some ways tied to the mills because there was no other means of support. But I have to think that there was still something very important about freedom, about not being the actual legal property of another person. Therefore, I think that it is not quite accurate to compare these workers to slaves.
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