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Governments, Labour, and the Law in Mid-Victorian BritainThe Trade Union Legislation of the 1870s$
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Mark Curthoys

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199268894

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199268894.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Governments, Labour, and the Law in Mid-Victorian Britain


Oxford University Press

This book examines the structures inherited by policymakers of mid-Victorian Britain from their Liberal-Tory predecessors a generation earlier granting trade unions a distinctive form of legal existence and withdrawing the criminal law from strikes, how those structures functioned, and why they began to fail. The decisions which brought about a replacement are discussed, with the purpose of reinstating the role of government into an established narrative. The politicians and administrators responsible for devising a legal settlement had sooner or later to acknowledge the evidence brought to light by the industrial disputes which punctuated the mid-Victorian period: habits of combination and even of collective bargaining were deep-rooted and could exist independently of the policy of the state. This fact, which fatally undermined policy prescriptions founded upon deductive systems of thought, whether economic or legal, became a commonplace in studies of labour law.

Keywords:   labour law, collective labour, criminal law, trade unions, mid-Victorian Britain, free trade, strikes, free labour, freedom to strike

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