A History of British Trade Unionism by Henry Pelling

By Henry Pelling

The writer leads the reader via a narrative of fight and improvement overlaying greater than 4 centuries: from the medieval guilds and early craftsmen's and labourers' institutions to the dramatic progress of exchange unionism in Britain within the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He indicates how strong personalities similar to Robert Applegarth, Henry Broadhurst, Tom Mann, Ernest Bevin and Walter Citrine have helped to form the trend of present-day unionism, and for this variation he has further a bankruptcy "On the protective: the 1980s". the writer additionally wrote "The Origins of the Labour Party".

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In 1852 there was much activity on the North-East coast and in Scotland, and in 1856 an unusually able leader of the Scottish miners, Alexander McDonald, sought to revive a federation for the whole of Britain. Born in 1821, McDonald had been a miner at the age of eight, but in his twenties he attended Glasgow University for a time. His own Scottish union survived a severe defeat in a strike of over three months, and he persevered in his plans, which in 1858 resulted in the formation of the National Miners Association, a body whose urgent concern was with the promotion of legislation for the improvement of conditions in the mines.

But the main object of the tradesmen was to end a practice in the The Emergence of Trade Unionism PT. I industry whereby an employer before recruiting a new skilled man demanded to see his 'quittance paper' from his previous employer, giving details of his ability and character. In I85o-I a number of young society members in the industry took the lead. in negotiations for the creation of a national union, to be formed by the fusion of local and sectional bodies. The most prominent in the group were William Allan of Crewe, a taciturn and methodical Scotsman who was now secretary of the 'Old Mechanics', and William Newton of London, a member of the same society who was a powerful and ebullient orator if less able as an administrator.

At the same time, it authorised summary jurisdiction, as under the I 8oo Act, for persons using 'violence to the person or property' or 'threats or intimidation' in order to impose the rules of a combination. The Act was passed through both Houses of Parliament almost without discussion. Unfortunately for the sponsors of the 1824 Act, it came into force just at the beginning of a period of good trade and rising prices. The result was a sudden crop of strikes, accompanied in some cases by far-reaching demands for the regulation of conditions of work, exclusion of nonsociety men and so on ; there was also a certain amount of violence.

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