British Trade Union and Labour History A Compendium by L. A. Clarkson

By L. A. Clarkson

The industrial heritage Society commissioned this sequence which goals to supply a consultant to present interpretations of the major issues of financial and social historical past within which advances were made or within which there was major debate. The books are meant to be a springboard to futher interpreting instead of a suite of pre-packaged conclusions. this is often an advent and survey to the present kingdom of scholarship in regards to the heritage of the British exchange union flow and labour. It covers the years 1800-1914 and goals to provide readers entry to the simplest paintings performed within the box and support them draw their very own conclusions.

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He bases this statement on Briggs' observation - that 'the pendulum swung between economic action through trade unions and political action through Chartism. "Good times" favoured the former: "bad times" the latter' ([86] 6)- and on Hobsbawm's investigation into the effects of the trade cycle on workingclass movements (see below, p. 39). There is some truth in this observation, but, as Prothero points out, it needs refinement (see below, p. 42), for his revised interpretation). It is very doubtful, for example, whether there were any large-scale desertions from trade unions into politics, and vice versa, according to the state of trade.

The practical aims were also unaltered : to fight against wage reductions, the breakdown of apprenticeship regulations and heavy unemployment. The cotton spinners, for example, in organising their Grand General Union in 1829 - preceded by similar general movements in 1810 and 1825- were motivated by purely trade-union aims regarding wages, entry to the trade and establishment of a strike fund. So too were the letterpress printers in establishing their Northern Union in 1830; organisation of tramp relief for the unemployed was also a strong motive.

Working-class Radicals, so Briggs informs us, supported a political programme based on universal suffrage rather than an economic programme based on strikes and machine-breaking, because to build trade unions was (according to the Leeds Intelligencer) 'only like lopping the branches of a comel tree, leaving the corrupting root to strike forth with greater strength than before'. 2 But that trade societies in some towns supported the Reform Bill is demonstrated by their participation in processions such as that at Edinburgh in protest against rejection of the Bill in 1831, and in Birmingham in triumph after the Lords finally gave way ([36] 177).

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