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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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‘The Workmen’s Victory’?

‘The Workmen’s Victory’?

(p.208) 9 ‘The Workmen’s Victory’?
Governments, Labour, and the Law in Mid-Victorian Britain


Oxford University Press

The unexpected loss of the Liberal Party in the general election of 1874 was not due more to the active hostility of the trade unionists than to the sullen abstention of the nonconformists in Britain. Neither factor is now thought to have been decisive in the Liberal defeat. After the election, some observers pointed to a trend among Conservative Party candidates to pledge themselves to the Trades Union Congress programme. However, the parliamentary majority of the new Conservative administration was founded not upon numerous undertakings to appease the unionists, but if anything on an inclination to resist them. This chapter discusses the creation of the Cockburn commission to make recommendations regarding the Criminal Law Amendment Act, the Master and Servant Act, and the law of conspiracy; the Conservatives' concession to organized labour by amending a number of labour laws in favor of trade unions, and the withdrawal of the criminal law from the bargaining between organized workers and employers.

Keywords:   Britain, election, Liberal Party, Conservative Party, trade unions, law of conspiracy, criminal law, labour laws, Cockburn commission

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