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Durham e-Theses
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Work, industrialisation and politics: a study of the work experience of spinners, coalminers and engineering workers, 1850-1914

Holbrook-Jones, M. R. (1979) Work, industrialisation and politics: a study of the work experience of spinners, coalminers and engineering workers, 1850-1914. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The thesis is designed to demonstrate the importance of work experience in explaining the ideology and organisational structure of the labour movement during 1850-1914. To do this three contrasting occupations - textile, coal and engineering workers - are examined. It is argued that the significance of craft unionism did not lie essentially in the nature of the skill involved, but in the strategy of social action adopted by the union to maintain its interests. To do this the following must be researched: (1) the consequences of pioneer industrialisation, the narrow base of the technological breakthrough, and the ‘late’ arrival of competition. (2) The economic and social structures of the three industries, focusing particularly on markets, unit size, capital/labour ratio, concentration or dispersal geographically, technology and working methods. (3) The labour aristocracy question. The politics of 'labourism'. (4) A theoretical statement of the relation between work and industrialisation. (5) The history of working methods in the three industries, in particular, the extent and nature of control, socio-technical constraints on workgroups, the internal hierarchy within the occupation, the degree of resistance to change. The impact on the rest of the workforce of the strategies adopted. (6) The significance of the incentive principle in the ideological development of the three occupational groups. From this basis It will be argued that an understanding of work experience has been undervalued in past evaluations of the labour movement, and in particular the explanations of ‘reformist’ or 'corporate' responses to industrialisation.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1979
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 15:37

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