Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in the autumn of 1843, a year which saw the publication of a government report which highlighted plight of child labour. Dickens was incensed by its findings then, during the year, on a visit to his sister in Manchester, he met charities supporting the working poor.
He also went to see conditions at one of London's Ragged Schools - set up with the aim of educating destitute youngsters.
Dickens was so angered by the government report that he had initially planned to raise the issue by writing a political pamphlet - drawing on his past experience as a political reporter. But then he changed his mind.
He wrote to a friend, saying that he would instead publish something at Christmas which would have "20 times the force".
Dickens's strategy worked. Released six days before Christmas 1843, all 6,000 copies were sold by Christmas Eve. At that time of year there was a tradition of telling ghost stories. Communities would gather around the fire to welcome in Christmas, and Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol knowing it would be read aloud.