Luddites and Unions

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					Causes for Luddites and then Development of Unions---
England’s Distress in 1811-1813
• In 1812 the government probably had reason to be
   – a large part of the army was overseas, mainly in the
     Peninsular with Wellington;
   – the country was fighting not only the French but also
     the Americans
   – England was experiencing the worst trade depression
     since the 1760s and people were suffering great hardship.
     as evidenced by the Sheffield riots of 1812
• Source:
Causes for Development of Luddites and Unions
• Poverty – Harsh economic times because of
  the Napoleonic wars
• Non-enforcement of laws meant to protect
   – Minimum wage bill 1808 (decreased
   – Deteriorating working conditions
• Combination Acts – Banned trade unions
• Mechanical Looms and spinners replacing
  skilled craftsman
Conditions in
the Mills
 The Luddites were against the use of new
  technological machinery which they
  believed took jobs away from other people
 They would burn the factories that made
  these machines.
 Their group was most notable during the
 They caused such a problem for the
  government they were ordered to be
  arrested on sight
The cause of it all?
 The type of instrument
 destroyed by Ned Ludd

 A stocking frame was a
 machine that knitted stocking
 or socks.

 1812 – Frame-Breaking Act
 (capital crime)
What did
The Luddites: 1811-1816

   Attacks on the “frames” [power looms].
Ned Ludd [a mythical figure supposed to live in
             Sherwood Forest]
Luddites and Luddism
 Workers began breaking into factories at
  night and destroying new machines
 Unions had no leader so they claimed to
  follow “General Ludd” a made up figure
 Named after Ned Ludd who smashed a
  mechanical loom
 “Luddite” now refers to people resisting
  technological change
 Breaking into factories became known as
The Luddites
took to
machines that
their job
and abilities
to raise
  General Ludd
 General Ned Ludd was said to be the leader of the
  original Luddites.
 He is said to have gained fame by the 1800’s, and
  to have started the movement in the 1810’s.
 Trade unions sent threatening letters employers
  and local officials.
 Letters to the factories were signed by Ned Ludd.
 Where the name “Luddites” came from
Mythic Hero?
• Ned Ludd mythical person?
• Ned Ludd was reputed to
  live in Sherwood Forest.
• “They said Ned Ludd was an idiot

• That all he could do was wreck and
  destroy, and

• He turned to his workmates and
  said: Death to Machines

• They tread on our future and they
  stamp on our dreams.” -- Robert
Riots and battles of the Luddite
 Riots
    Nottinhamshire – Nov 1811
    West Riding of Yorkshire – Jan 1812
    Lancashire – March 1813                                                   Sutton’s Mill, Nottinghamshire

           Luddites smashing looms in a factory during the riots of 1811–16.
           The Granger Collection, New York
  Luddite Attacks
 One of the most serious attacks took place at
  Rawfolds Mill in Yorkshire.
 William Cartwright owned the mill and had been
  using cloth-finishing machinery since 1811
 Local croppers began losing their jobs
 These farmers met at Saint Crispin public house
  and decided to try and destroy the cloth-finishing
 Cartwright suspected trouble and arranged for
  the mill to be protected by armed guards
 Luddite Attacks cont’d.
 The attack on Rawfolds Mill took place
  on April 11, 1812 and was led by George
 The Luddites failed to gain entry
 Two croppers were mortally wounded
 Most infamous union raid
 Cartwright became a hero for efforts to
  crush Luddite threat
     Middleton Guardian Report
"AT LEAST seven people have been killed after a day of Luddite rioting that brought terror
  to the poplace of Middleton. Until now the town has been spared the attention of the
  followers of the infamous Ned Ludd from Leicestershire, whose resentment of the
  coming of the power driven loom has spawned bands of machine wreckers.

It has been feared for some time that Middleton could become the target for these
    agitators, for many of the town's loomhouses have fallen silent - the men have gone to
    work at the power looms that Daniel Burton has installed at his calico printing mill in
    Wood Street.

But no one could have forseen the mayhem that ensued today, 2nd April 1812.

Men armed with clubs, staves and rakes came into the town from all directions. They
  congregated at Th' Top o' Middleton, entered the shops and began to fill their pockets
  with the goods on the shelves, throwing the flour and sugar about the floor and
  generally causing havoc.

George Mellor---A Luddite Leader
 Led the revolt against Cartwright
 Was put on trial along with three other
  leaders for the killing of William
 Refused to break the Luddite code of
  silence when put on trial.
 Was hanged in January 1813.
  Luddite Attacks cont’d.
 A week later the Luddites killed William Horsfall,
  another large mill owner in the area
 The authorities rounded up over a hundred suspects
 They indicted 64
 Three men were executed for the murder of Horsfall and
  another 14 were hung for attack on the Rawfolds Mill.
 In 1812 there were attacks on Lancashire cotton mills.
 On March 20, 1812 the warehouse of William Radcliffe
  was attacked in Stockport
  Primary Source
 “ Such was the state of that country, and such I have reason to
  believe that it to be at this moment. But whilst these
  outrages must be admitted to exist to an alarming extent, it
  cannot be denied that they have arisen from circumstances
  of the most unparalleled distress: the perseverance of these
  miserable men in their proceedings, tends to prove that
  nothing but absolute want could have driven a large, and
  once honest and industrious, body of the people into the
  commission of excesses so hazardous to themselves, their
  families, and the community. They were not ashamed to beg,
  but there was none to relieve them; their own means of
  subsistence were cut off, all other employment preoccupied;
  and their excesses, however to be deplored and condemned,
  can hardly be subject to surprise.”
 Lord Byron
  Luddite Attacks cont’d.
 Wheat prices soared in 1812 and workers became
 There were food riots in Manchester, Oldham, Ashton,
  Rochdale, Stockport, and Macclesfield
 On April 20,1812 several thousand men attacked Burton’s
  Mill at Middleton.
 Emmanuel Burton had recruited armed guards
 Three members of the crowd were killed by musket fire
 Men returned the next day and set Burton’s house on fire
 The military came back and another seven men were
  Burton’s Mill Primary Source
 “ The weaving factory of Mr. Burton and Sons had been
  previously threatened in consequence of their mode of
  weaving being done by the operation of stream. The factory
  was protected by soldiers, so strongly as to be impregnable
  to their assault; they then flew to the house of Mr.
  Emmanuel Burton, where they wreaked their vengeance by
  setting it on fire. On Friday, the 24th of April, a large body of
  weavers and mechanics began to assemble together with the
  whole of the premises, at Westhoughton. The military rode
  at full speed to Westhoughton; and on the arrival were
  surprised to find that he premises were entirely destroyed,
  while not an individual could be seen to whom attached any
  suspicion of having acted a part in this truly dreadful
 Archibald Prince
  Luddite Attacks cont’d.
 Three days later Wray and Duncroff’s Mill was set on fire
 The sheriff arrested 12 men suspected of taking part in
  the attack
 Four of the accused were executed
 In the summer of 1812 eight men in Lancashire were
  sentenced to death and thirteen transported to Australia
  for attacks on cotton mills.
 Another fifteen were executed at York
 By 1817 The Luddite movement had ceased to be active in
 Luddite Song
“Engines of Mischief”

These Engines of mischief were sentenced
 to die
By unanimous vote of the Trade.
And Ludd who can all opposition defy
Was the Grand executioner made.
  Government Response
 Felt it had to establish control
 Provide good business climate
 Repress and control unruly labor groups
 No attempt to alleviate cause of social disruption

 “The Frame Breakers” by Nicols Fox
Government Reaction
 March 1811: authorities placed 400 special constables to
   February 1812: Government of Spencer Perceval proposed
    that machine- breaking should become a capital offence
   Frame Breaking Act: enabled people convicted of machine-
    breaking to be sentenced to death
   Government ordered 12,000 troops to areas where Luddites
    were active
   Offered pardons to those who renounced oath to “General
   Paid spies reported leaders and testified against them
   Soldiers broke up Luddite meetings and made arrests
   Mellor and 2 other leaders were hung in January 1813 for
    the murder of Horsfall
   1899: Parliament rejected worker pleas for a minimum
    wage law and made trade unions illegal
  Government Reaction
 English government planted spies into the Unions to
  retrieve names of people leading them.
 They offered rewards to informers.
 Sent several thousand troops into the area.
 Still had little success.
 Parliament passed a law that made machine breaking
 The punishment was the death-penalty.
 Luddites were tried and sent to Australia if found
Lord Byron’s Speech againstThe Frame Breaking Act
• Lord Byron, made a passionate speech against the Act in the House of Lords at the end
  of February, 1812:

• During the short time I recently passed in Nottingham, not twelve hours elapsed
  without some fresh act of violence; and on that day I left the county I was informed
  that forty Frames had been broken the preceding evening, as usual, without resistance
  and without detection.

  Such was the state of that county, and such I have reason to believe it to be at this
  moment. But whilst these outrages must be admitted to exist to an alarming extent, it
  cannot be denied that they have arisen from circumstances of the most unparalleled
  distress: the perseverance of these miserable men in their proceedings, tends to prove
  that nothing but absolute want could have driven a large, and once honest and
  industrious, body of the people, into the commission of excesses so hazardous to
  themselves, their families, and the community.
End of Luddites
 Machines and factories had been
  completely destroyed
 Defeat of General Ludd; military force,
  trials, and hangings
 1830’s: most hand spinners, weavers,
  and croppers had been replaced by
  The end of Luddism
 Male workers gained the right to vote
 Trade unions became legal
 49 luddites killed in riots by government forces
 24 were executed
 34 transported to Australia
 More than 20 others given long term prison sentences
  The Luddite riots led to many songs that were sung for
  years afterwards, and made the Luddites popular heroes

Luddites in Song
 General Ludd's Triumph                    Now by force unsubdued, and by
 Tune "Poor Jack"                            threats undismay'd
                                           Death itself can't his ardour
 Chant no more your old rhymes about         repress
    bold Robin Hood,(2)
 His feats I but little admire             The presence of Armies can't make
 I will sing the Achievements of General     him afraid
                                           Nor impede his career of success
 Now the Hero of Nottinghamshire
 Brave Ludd was to measures of violence    Whilst the news of his conquests is
    unused                                   spread far and near
 Till his sufferings became so severe
                                           How his Enemies take the alarm
 That at last to defend his own Interest
    he rous'd(3)                           His courage, his fortitude, strikes
 And for the great work did prepare(4)       them with fear
                                           For they dread his Omnipotent
More Songs                            •   "The Cropper's Song"

                                      Come, cropper lads of high renown,
• Hunting a Loaf                      Who love to drink good ale that's brown,
                                      And strike each haughty tyrant down,
Good people I pray, now hear what I
   say,                               With hatchet, pike, and gun!
And pray do not call it sedition;     Oh, the cropper lads for me,
For these great men of late they      The gallant lads for me,
   have cracked my poor pate:         Who with lusty stroke,
I'm wounded, in a woeful condition.   The shear frames broke,
                                      The cropper lads for me!
And sing fal lal the diddle i do,     What though the specials(14) still advance,
Sing fal the diddle i do,
                                      And soldiers nightly round us prance;
Sing fal the lal day.
                                      The croppers lads still lead the dance,
For in Derby it's true and in         With hatchet, pike, and gun!
   Nottingham too,                    Oh, the cropper lads for me,
Poor men to the jail they've been     The gallant lads for me,
   taking;                            Who with lusty stroke
They say that Ned Ludd, as I
   understood,                        The shear frames broke,
A thousand wide frames has been       The cropper lads for me!
Luddite Fallacy
• Labor saving technologies increase un-employment by
  reducing the demand for labor
• The Fallacy
   – Cost of goods decreases
   – Demand for goods rises
   – So more people are hired.
   – At the macro-economic level, production increases while
     keeping workforce levels constant
   – Micro-economically, real people are out of a job. Modern day
     wisdom says the cure for this is job training
• If the Luddite fallacy were true we would all be out of work
  because productivity has been increasing for two centuries
   – Alex Tabarrok, economist
  Political Consequences of Luddites
• Changed the views of many influential people
   – Especially Lord Byron who spoke at the trials of several
     luddites, and Earl Fitzwilliam, Lord Lieutenant of the West
     Riding of Yorkshire.
• Brought rights of workers to the attention of the public
• Began debate about industrialization
• Look at both the positive and negative effects of
• Govt. could no longer ignore the plight of workers
• Technology is never neutral
  The Making of the English Working Class,
  E. P. Thompson
• Luddites were not opposed to new technology
  so much as the economic order that arose with
  it that destroyed their lively hood
• Research suggests that the frames destroyed
  were often those of owners and mills that tried
  to cut process and wages, while others were
  often left un touched
• The Luddites acted from a sense of self
What are the similarities between
the Luddites and the WSPU
Suffragettes led by the Pankhursts?
What is a Union?
A continuous association of
 wage-earners for the purpose of
 maintaining or improving the
 conditions of their
The Trade Unions
 The trade unions were bands of people
  of one trade that came together to help
  their common good.
 They would strike for better wages and
  petition for less hours.
 Use collective bargaining
    Unions in the Early              18 th   Century
 Growth of unions in Great Britain was due to industrialization
 Employers began turning to machines so that they wouldn’t have
    to pay craftsmen
   People were becoming unemployed or wages were being cut
   Craftsmen became extremely angry
   Workers revolted by smashing machines
   Trade Clubs were formed by workers to bargain for higher wages
   Labor Union meetings were banned until 1824 due to fear of an
   Workers benefited from unions through strength and unity
   Government prosecuted unions and supported employers
   1871: 290,000 people belonged to unions
   1901: # of people belonging to unions had risen to 2,000,000
    Weapons Used by Employers       Weapons Used by Unions

•   At-will employment          •   Boycotts
•   Blacklists                  •   Check-offs
•   Company unions              •   Closed shops
•   Individual bargaining       •   Collective bargaining
•   Injunctions                 •   Direct political action
•   Laws that limit union       •   Favorable labor legislation
    activities                  •   Feather-bedding
•   Lockouts                    •   Lobbying
•   Open shops                  •   Picketing
•   Outsourcing                 •   Sabotage
•   Relocation                  •   Strikes
•   Right-to-work laws          •   Union label
•   Threat of foreign           •   Union shops
•   Welfare capitalism
•   Yellow-dog contracts
  National Union of Mineworkers
 In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century colliers in
  every coal-mining area attempted to form unions
 During this period miners obtained a reputation for
  militancy and were accused of being followers of the
  revolutionary doctrines of Tom Paine
 In an attempt to avoid the Combination Acts early colliery
  unions went under the name of friendly societies
 In the early part of the nineteenth century, there were 21
  miner's friendly societies in central Lancashire alone.
  in 1831 and 1832 miners in Northumberland and Durham
  joined together to gain a reduction in hours and the abolition
  of the truck system
    Nat’l Union of Mineworkers cont’d.
 In 1842 colliers formed the Miners Association of Great
    Britain and Ireland
   In 1880 James Keir Hardie led the first ever strike of
    Lanarkshire miners
   He also became secretary of the Ayrshire Miners' Union and
    later, with the help of another outstanding union leader,
    Robert Smillie, helped establish the Scottish Miners'
   In the 1874 General Election two miners, Alexander
    MacDonald (Stafford) and Thomas Burt (Morpeth) were
    elected to the House of Commons
   After the passing of the 1884 Reform Act most miners could
    vote in parliamentary elections
  Nat’l Union of Mineworkers cont’d.
 Six miners were elected to Parliament from the Liberal Party
 In the summer of 1888 the price of coal began to rise. All over
  Britain miners began to talk about the need for a pay increase
 When colliery owners rejected the claims of the Yorkshire
  Miners' Association, its leader, Ben Pickard, sent out a
  circular inviting all miners "to attend a conference for the
  purpose of considering the best means of securing a 10%
  advance in wages and of trying to find common ground for
  National Union of Agricultural
 In 1833 a small group of farm laborers in a
  village in Dorset called Tolpuddle attempted to
  form a branch of the Agricultural Laborers
 Its six leaders were arrested and charged under
  the 1797 Unlawful Oaths Act.
 They were found guilty and sentenced to seven
  years‘ in Australia
  Nat’l Union of Agricultural Workers
 Workers were shocked by the severity of the sentences
 It was not until 1866 that an organized attempt was made to
 At this time the Agricultural Laborers Protection Association
  was formed in Kent
 As labor was scarce at that time, the men were able to get
  their wages raised.
 Similar organizations were formed in Buckinghamshire,
  Herefordshire and Hertfordshire
  Nat’l Union of Agricultural Workers
 In March 1872 a meeting was held in Wellsbourne,
 It was decided to unite these different agricultural
 The delegates elected Joseph Arch as their leader.
 They established the National Agricultural Laborers’
 Within two years they had over 86,000 members,
 Over one-tenth of the farm work force in Britain
  Nat’l Union of Agricultural Workers
 A prolonged strike in 1874 drained the union of funds
 Membership had declined to 4,254 by 1889.
 The successful London Dock Strike inspired the
  agricultural workers to try again to develop a strong
 This time they were able to maintain the union's growth
 By 1919 the National Union of Agricultural Workers had
 over 100,000 members.
  Association of Cotton Spinners
 By 1800 over thirty cotton towns in Lancashire, Cheshire
  and Derbyshire had local spinners' friendly societies or
  trade clubs
 The first documented society was at Stockport in 1785
 These societies became illegal under the terms of the
  1799 and 1800 Combination Acts
 After the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1824 and
  1825, spinners had more freedom to form associations of
 In 1828 John Doherty became leader of the Manchester
  Spinners' Union.
    Association of Cotton Spinners
 John Doherty organized a meeting of spinners from all over
   The result of the meeting was the formation of the Grand
    General Union of Operative Spinners of the United
   Doherty's union only lasted two years and it was not until
    1845 that a similar organization was formed.
   This time it was a group of spinners in Bolton who created
    the Association of Operative Cotton Spinners.
   Despite its name, few people joined from outside that part of
  Association of Cotton Spinners
 Other attempts at forming a national union took
 In Preston in 1852 the Friendly Association of Hand
  Mule Spinners was created.
 This time membership included workers from
  Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire and Derbyshire.
 In 1870 the Amalgamated Association of Operative
  Cotton Spinners was established
 This gave the cotton spinning trade a real national
  National Union of Gasworkers &
  General Laborers
 The committee then had responsibility of forming
  what became known as the National Union of
  Gasworkers & General Laborers.
 Elections were held and Thorne defeated Tillett for
  the post of General Secretary of the union.
 Some members of the committee wanted the
  union to negotiate a 1 shilling a day increase in
  their wages.
 Will Thorne favored a reduction in hours
  National Union of Gasworkers &
  General Laborers
 In March, 1889, workers from the Beckton Gas Works were
  laid off.
 Gas workers from all over London held a protest meeting on
  Sunday, 31st March.
 Will Thorne suggested that the gas workers formed their
  own union to protect themselves from the power of their
 Will Thorne, Ben Tillett and William Byford formed a three
  man committee and that morning they recruited over 800
  National Union of Gasworkers &
  General Laborers
 Thorne won the argument and began negotiations with
  the owners of the Gas Light and Coke Company, Beckton
  Gas Works and Nine Elms Gas Works.
 Within a few weeks Thorne had successfully negotiated
  an eight hour day in the industry.
 As they previously did twelve hour shifts, this was a great
  advert for union power
 The Gasworkers' Union soon had over 20,000 members
   Gasworkers & General Laborers:
   Primary Source
 Will Thorne, speech at a meeting of gas workers in London (31st March,
    Let me tell you that you will never get any alteration in Sunday work,
     no alteration in any of your conditions or wages, unless you join
     together and form a strong trade union. Then you will be able to have
     a voice and say how long will work, and how much you will do for a
     day's work.
     It is easy to break one stick, but when fifty sticks are together in one
     bundle it is a much more difficult job. The way you have been treated
     in your work for many years is a scandalous, brutal, and inhuman. I
     pledge my word that, if you will stand firm and don't waver, within six
     months we will claim and win the eight-hour day, a six-day week and
     the abolition of the present slave-driving methods in vogue not only
     at the Beckton Gas Works, but all over the country.
  Gasworkers & General Laborers:
  Primary Source
 In his book My Life's Battles Will Thorne explained how he
  persuaded his fellow members of the National Union of Gas
  Workers & General Laborers to campaign for the eight-hour day
   It was proposed to petition the directors of the different
    companies in London for an advance of 1s. per day in the wages
    of all the workers. I opposed this; I wanted a reduction in the
    working hours. "Shorten the hours and prolong your lives," was
    my plea. I declared that the eight-hour day would not alone
    mean a reduction of four hours a day for the workers then
    employed, but that it meant a large number of unemployed
    would be absorbed, and so reduce the inhuman competition
    that was making men more like beasts than civilized persons.
  National Union of Railwaymen
 In 1865 men working on the Great Western Railway
  attempted to form a Railway Working Men's Provident
  Benefit Society
 It was quickly destroyed when its leaders were sacked by the
 In the next thirty five years there were ten new railway unions
  were started but many failed to survive more than a couple of
 The most successful of these was:
   the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS) that was
    established in 1871
   the Amalgamated Society of Locomotive Engineers and
    Firemen (ASLEF) in 1880.
  National Union of Railwaymen
 By 1890 the total number of trade unionists on the
  railways was about 48,000 out of a total work force of
 By 1910 it had increased to 116,000, two-thirds of whom
  were in the ASRS and about one-sixth in ASLEF.
 In 1913 the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) was
  formed by the amalgamation of the ASRS, the United
  Pointsmen and Signalmen's Society and the General
  Railway Workers Union
    National Union of Railwaymen
 The most important figure in these negotiations was Jimmy
    Thomas, the Labor MP for Derby.
   Although still a member of the House of Commons,
    Thomas was elected General Secretary of the NUR in 1917
   Two years later he led a successful railway strike.
   When Ramsay MacDonald became Prime Minister after the
    1924 General Election, he appointed Thomas as Secretary of
    State for the Colonies.
   He was expelled from the Labor Party after he joined
    MacDonald's National Government in 1931.
Union Cartoon
    Transport and General Workers
 July 1910 Ben Tillett and Tom Mann were the leaders of the
    Dockers’ Union
   Representatives of the 16 unions present at the meeting agreed
    and Harry Gosling of the Amalgamated Society of Waterman and
    Lighterman was elected president of the new organization.
   Gosling argued for futher amalgamation and in June 1913 the
    General Laborers’ Union joined the National Transport Workers’
    Federation (NTWF)
   1922 the 2 men (Gosling & Bevin) were instrumental in
    establishing the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU)
   TGWU united nearly 50 organizations into the world’s largest
Political Cartoon
 Strike- refusing to continue working until
  their demands were met: not being held
  liable for financial damages on employers
 Union funds were not legally protected
 Picketing through strike was illegal
 1870’s: British unions had the right to
    Bloody Sunday
 The Social Democratic Federation (SDF) organized a meeting for
    13th February, 1887 in Trafalgar Square to protest against the
    policies of the Conservative Government headed by the Marquess
    of Salisbury.
   The government decided to ban the meeting and the police were
    given the orders to stop the marchers entering Trafalgar Square.
   The SDF decided to continue with their planned meeting and as a
    result the marchers were attacked by the police.
   George Barnes was one of those who was badly injured by the
    charging police horses.
   Some of the protesters were arrested and later two of the leaders
    of the march, John Burns and Robert Cunninghame Graham, were
    arrested and later sentenced to a six-week prison sentence
  Bloody Sunday: Primary Source
 Walter Crane later described what took place on Bloody
 Sunday on 13th November 1887.
   I never saw anything more like real warfare in my life -
    only the attack was all on one side. The police, in spite
    of their numbers, apparently thought they could not
    cope with the crowd. They had certainly exasperated
    them, and could not disperse them, as after every
    charge - and some of these drove the people right
    against the shutters in the shops in the Strand - they
    returned again.
   Bloody Sunday: Primary Source
 J. R. Clynes, Memoirs (1937)
    Angry Labour leaders announced that, on Sunday, November 13th,
     1887, Trafalgar Square would be stormed. Squadrons of military, fully
     armed, and powerful detachments of police, were drafted there to
     resist any such attempt. On the appointed day, workers led by Burns
     and others tried to force a way through the armed ranks, to
     demonstrate the rights of free speech. Bricks and stones were flung,
     iron railings crashed on sabres and bayonets, dozens of workmen
     were wounded, and the attack was beaten off. Burns and others were
     A month or two later, another effort was made to storm the Square,
     and a workman was killed. Burns made a speech at the funeral, and
     was again arrested. At his trial at the Old Bailey, H. H. Asquith was
     Counsel for the Defence. Burns was sentenced to six weeks'
     imprisonment; later, he and Asquith were Cabinet Ministers together.
Bloody Sunday: Primary Source
 The Times (14th November, 1887)
    It was no enthusiasm for free speech, no reasoned belief
     in the innocence of Mr O'Brien, no serious conviction of
     any kind, and no honest purpose that animated these
     howling toughs. It was simple love of disorder, hope of
     plunder it may be hoped that the magistrates will not
     fail to pass exemplary sentences upon those now in
     custody who have laboured to the best of their ability to
     convert an English Sunday into a carnival of blood.
Bloody Sunday: Primary Source
 In his book, My Days and Dreams, Edward Carpenter
 described the events of Bloody Sunday.
   I was in the Square at the time. The crowd was a most good-
    humoured, easy going, smiling crowd; but presently it was
    transformed. A regiment of mounted police came cantering
    up. The order had gone forth that we were to be kept moving.
    To keep a crowd moving is I believe a technical term for the
    process of riding roughshod in all directions, scattering,
    frightening and batoning the people.
    I saw my friend Robert Muirhead seized by the collar by a
    mounted man and dragged along, apparently towards a police
    station, while a bobby on foot aided in the arrest. I jumped to
    the rescue and slanged the two constables, for which I got a
    whack on the cheek-bone from a baton, but Muirhead was
The Matchgirls
  The Matchgirls’ Strike
 In June 1888, Clementina Black gave a speech on
  Female Labour at a Fabian Society meeting in
 Annie Besant, a member of the audience, was
  horrified when she heard about the pay and
  conditions of the women working at the Bryant &
  May match factory.
 The next day, Annie Besant went and interviewed
  some of the people who worked at Bryant & May.
    The Matchgirls’ Strike
 She discovered that the women worked fourteen hours a day
    for a wage of less than five shillings a week.
   However, they did not always received their full wage because
    of a system of fines, ranging from three pence to one shilling,
    imposed by the Bryant & May management.
   Offences included talking, dropping matches or going to the
    toilet without permission.
   The women worked from 6.30 am in summer (8.00 in winter)
    to 6.00 pm.
   If workers were late, they were fined a half-day's pay.
    The Matchgirls’ Strike
 Annie Besant also discovered that the health of the women
    had been severely affected by the phosphorous that they
    used to make the matches.
   This caused yellowing of the skin and hair loss and phossy
    jaw, a form of bone cancer.
   The whole side of the face turned green and then black,
    discharging foul-smelling pus and finally death.
   Phosphorous was banned in Sweden and the US
   The British government refused to follow this example,
    arguing that it would be a restraint of free trade.
    The Matchgirls’ Strike
 On 23rd June 1888, Annie Besant wrote an article in her
    newspaper, The Link.
   The article, entitled White Slavery in London, complained
    about the way the women at Bryant & May were being
   The company reacted by attempting to force their workers to
    sign a statement that they were happy with their working
   When a group of women refused to sign, the organizers of
    the group was sacked.
   The response was immediate; 1400 of the women at Bryant &
    May went on strike
  Matchgirls’: Primary Source
 Annie Besant, The Link (23rd June, 1888)
    Born in slums, driven to work while still children, undersized
     because under-fed, oppressed because helpless, flung aside as
     soon as worked out, who cares if they die or go on to the streets
     provided only that Bryant & May shareholders get their 23 per
     cent and Mr. Theodore Bryant can erect statues and buy parks?
     Girls are used to carry boxes on their heads until the hair is
     rubbed off and the young heads are bald at fifteen years of age?
     Country clergymen with shares in Bryant & May's draw down
     on your knee your fifteen year old daughter; pass your hand
     tenderly over the silky clustering curls, rejoice in the dainty
     beauty of the thick, shiny tresses.
    The Matchgirls’ Strike
 Annie Besant, William Stead, and Henry Hyde Champion
    used their newspapers to call for a boycott of Bryant & May
   The women at the company also decided to form a
    Matchgirls' Union and Besant agreed to become its leader.
   After three weeks the company announced that it was
    willing to re-employ the dismissed women and would also
    bring an end to the fines system.
   The women accepted the terms and returned in triumph.
   The Bryant & May dispute was the first strike by
    unorganized workers to gain national publicity.
   It was also successful at helped to inspire the formation of
    unions all over the country.
  Matchgirls’: Primary Source
 The Times (June, 1888)
   The pity is that the matchgirls have not been
    suffered to take their own course but have been
    egged on to strike by irresponsible advisers. No
    effort has been spared by those pests of the
    modern industrialized world to bring this
    quarrel to a head.
    The Matchgirls’ Strike Effects
 In 1891 the Salvation Army opened its own match-factory in Old
    Ford, East London.
   Only using harmless red phosphorus, the workers were soon
    producing six million boxes a year.
   Whereas Bryant & May paid their workers just over two pence a
    gross, the Salvation Army paid their employees twice this amount.
   William Booth organised conducted tours of MPs and journalists
    round this 'model' factory.
   He also took them to the homes of those "sweated workers" who
    were working eleven and twelve hours a day producing matches
    for companies like Bryant & May.
   The bad publicity that the company received forced the company
    to reconsider its policy.
   In 1901, Gilbert Bartholomew, managing director of Bryant &
    May, announced it had stopped used yellow phosphorus.
  Combination Acts
 In 1799 and 1780 the prime minister of England, William
  Pitt, passed laws that restricted the rights of Unions to
  get together and strike for better wages and hours.
 This was obviously highly unpopular and was fought for
  many years until it was finally taken back in 1824.
 This led to many strikes that year, so the following year
  the government put another combination act in to effect.
 This was a source of anger for groups of peoples who
  were like the Luddites.
    Combination Acts
 Combination Laws was passed making it illegal for workers
    to join together to press their employers for shorter hours or
    may pay
   As a result trade unions were thus effectively made illegal
   The campaign against the Combination Acts was led by the
    trade union leader, Francis Place.
   The Combination Laws remained in force until they were
    repealled in 1824.
   This was followed by an outbreak of strikes and as a result the
    1825 Combination Act was passed which again imposed
    limitations on the right to strike.
  Gagging Acts
 The Habeas Corpus Act
 Passed by Parliament in 1679
 It guaranteed that a person detained by the authorities would
  have to be brought before a court of law so that the legality of
  the detention may be examined.
 In times of social unrest, Parliament had the power to
  suspend Habeas Corpus. William Pitt did this in May 1793
  during the war with France.
 Parliamentary reformers such as Thomas Hardy and John
  Thelwall were imprisoned as a result of this action.
  Gagging Acts
 Habeas Corpus was also suspended in January 1817
 This occurred after a missile had been thrown through the
  glass window of the Prince Regent's coach on the way to the
  opening of Parliament.
 Supporters of parliamentary reform were blamed for this act
  of violence
 Lord Liverpool and his government rushed the Gagging Acts
  through Parliament.
 These measures banned meetings of over fifty people and
  instructed magistrates to arrest everyone suspected of
  spreading seditious libel
 Gagging Acts
Gagging Acts severely hampered the
 campaign for parliamentary reform
Parliament decided to restore Habeas
 Corpus in March, 1818, there was a
 immediate revival in the demands for
 universal suffrage
    Six Acts of 1819
 Lord Liverpool and his Tory government responded to the
    Peterloo Massace by introducing the Six Acts.
   Parliament reassembled on 23rd November, 1819
   Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, announced details of
    what later became known as the Six Acts.
   By December 30, 1819, Parliament had debated and passed
    six measures
   Parliament hoped these Six Acts would:
     Suppress radical newspapers and meetings
     Reduce the possibility of an armed uprising
  Six Acts of 1819
 Training Prevention Act
    A measure which made any person attending a gathering for
     the purpose of training or drilling liable to arrest. People found
     guilty of this offence could be sent to the penal colony of
     Australia for seven years.
 Seizure of Arms Act
    A measure that gave power to local magistrates to search any
     property or person for arms.
 Seditious Meetings Prevention Act
    A measure which prohibited the holding of public meetings of
     more than fifty people without the consent of a sheriff or
  Six Acts of 1819
 The Misdemeanours Act
    A measure that attempted to reduce the delay in the
     administration of justice.
 The Basphemous and Seditious Libels Act
    A measure which provided much stronger punishments,
     including banishment for publications judged to be
     blaspemous or sedtious.
 Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act
    A measure which subjected certain radical publications which
     had previously avoided stamp duty by publishing opinion and
     not news, to such duty.
Six Acts of 1819
 These measures were opposed by the Whigs
 They believed the Six Acts were a suppression of
  popular rights and liberties.
 They warned that it was unreasonable to pass national
  laws to deal with problems that only existed in certain
 The Whigs also warned that these measures would
  encourage radicals to become even more rebellious
  Six Acts : A Primary Source
 Lord Sidmouth, letter to Lord Liverpool about the introduction of
  the proposed Six Acts (1st October, 1819).
   “It is with deep regret that the determination to assemble
    Parliament has been so long delayed. The existing means of
    stopping the progress, not merely insurrection but rebellion,
    have long since proved to be utterly insufficient, but hitherto
    my colleagues have remained unconvinced of the imperious
    and urgent necessity of advising the adoption of the only
    measure, which would of itself, animate the loyal and awe the
    disaffected, and by which alone effectual means can be
    provided to meet and overcome a danger greater, as I am firmly
    and deliberately convinced, than any to which the country has
    been exposed since the accession of the present Royal Family to
    the throne.”
    1867 Masters & Servants Act
 Trade Unions were unhappy with the 1825 Combination Act
    that narrowly defined the rights of trade unions as meeting
    to bargain over wages and conditions.
   Anything outside these limits was liable to prosecution as
    criminal conspiracy in restraint of trade.
   In 1867 Benjamin Disraeli and his Conservative government
    agreed to pass the Masters and Servants Act.
   Under the terms of this act strikers could only be prosecuted
    for breach of contract
   Criminal action could still be brought for what was described
    as "aggravated cases".
    1871 Trade Union Act
 The head of the Conservative government, Earl of Derby
    decided to set up a Royal Commission on Trade Unions in
   George Potter, a writer for the Bee-Hive, called for a working
    man to be included
   The government rejected the idea of a working man but they
    did ask Frederic Harrison to serve on the commission.
   Harrison was a very useful member of the commission
   He preparing union witnesses by telling them in advance
    what questions would be asked and rescued the from difficult
    situations during their cross-examination
  1871 Trade Union Act
 Robert Applegarth, the general secretary of the
  Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, was chosen
  as a union observer of the proceedings.
 Applegarth checked the various accusations of the employers
  and provided information to the two pro-union members of
  the Royal Commission
 Applegarth also appeared as a witness
 It was generally accepted that he was the most impressive of
  all the trade unionists who gave evidence before the
  1871 Trade Union Act
 The three Union Leaders at the commission refused to sign the
  Majority Report that was hostile to trade unions
 Instead they produced a Minority Report where he argued that
  trade unions should be given privileged legal status.
 Harrison suggested several changes to the law:
   (1) Persons combining should not be liable for indictment for
    conspiracy unless their actions would be criminal if committed by a
    single person
   (2) The common law doctrine of restraint of trade in its application to
    trade associations should be repealed
   (3) That all legislation dealing with specifically with the activities of
    employers or workmen should be repealed
   (4) That all trade unions should receive full and positive protection
    for their funds and other property.
    1871 Trade Union Act
 The Trade Union Congress campaigned to have the Minority
    Report accepted by the new Liberal government.
   This campaign was successful and the 1871 Trade Union Act
    was based largely on the Minority Report.
   This act secured the legal status of trade unions.
   As a result of this legislation no trade union could be
    regarded as criminal because "in restraint of trade"; trade
    union funds were protected.
   Although trade unions were victorious with the Trade Union
    Act they were less fortunate with the Criminal Law
    Amendment Act passed the same day that made picketing
    1875 Conspiracy & Protection of
    Property Act
 After the 1874 General Election, Benjamin Disraeli and the
    Conservative Party formed the government.
   As promised, Disraeli passed new legislation concerning trade
   The Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act established the
    principle that a trade union could not be prosecuted for an act
    which would be legal if performed by an individual.
   For example, it was not illegal for an individual to stop work,
    therefore a union could not be prosecuted if it organized a
   Under this act peaceful picketing was allowed to take place
    during industrial disputes
  1880 Employer’s Liability Act
 The Employers' Liability Act extended protection to
  workers concerning accidents caused by the negligence of
  managers, superintendents, and foremen.
 Railway companies were also made liable when their
  employees were injured through the negligence of
  signalmen, drivers, and pointsmen.
 However, the act did not protect employees against
  accidents caused by fellow workers
    1906 Trades Disputes Act
 In 1901 the Taff Vale Railway Company sued the
    Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants for losses during
    a strike.
   As a result of the case the union was fined £23,000.
   Up until this time it was assumed that unions could not be
    sued for acts carried out by their members.
   This court ruling exposed trade unions to being sued every
    time it was involved in an industrial dispute.
   After the 1906 General Election the Liberal Government
    passed the 1906 Trades Disputes Act which removed trade
    union liability for damage by strike action
  1906 Trades Disputes Act: Primary
 J. R. Clynes, Memoirs (1937)
    Early in 1901 the Taff Vale Railway Company sued the
     Railwaymen's Union for fantastic damages because of the
     action of Union men in a trade dispute. After a case, which was
     conducted on lines which amazed every Labour man in the
     country, the House of Lords gave a final decision against the
     Union, which was mulcted of "3,000 damages, and incurred
     expenses amounting to a further £19,000. Other capitalists were
     not slow to realize the significance of this judgment! Trade
     Unions were sued on the most absurd grounds; the Taff Vale
     decision was quoted as a precedent; and Labour lost action
     after action.
Year(s)       Event(s)
1799-1800     Combination Laws: Outlawed unions and strikes.

1867          Disraeli Reform Act: Suffrage for workers.

1875          Repeal of the Combination laws; unions and strikes legalized. Union membership grew as a result.

1900          Labour Party: Founded by bringing together different groups representing trade unions, etc.

1901          Taft Vale Decision: House of Lords ruled that unions would have to pay financial damages caused
              by strikes (such as loss of income to employers), which threatened to end Britain’s unions.

After 1901    Labour Party: Worked for workers’ rights. (Other major British political parties were Liberals and

1906          Trade Disputes Act: Protected union funds from the Taft Vale court decision. Achieved by Liberal
              and Labour parties working together.

1909          Osborne Judgment: Banned trade unions from donating funds to political parties. Hurt the
              Labour party because poorer, working class party members could not provide salaries to party’s
              elected representatives.

1911          Parliament Act: Stopped the House of Lords from vetoing laws passed by the House of Commons.
              Paid members of parliament an annual salary.

1920s         Labour Party: Surpassed the Liberal party in power.

1940s-1950s   Social security: Labour party government brought increased social programs, including socialized
              medicine, along with government control of several industries (electricity, steel, television).