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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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After the Combination Acts

After the Combination Acts

(p.15) 1 After the Combination Acts
Governments, Labour, and the Law in Mid-Victorian Britain


Oxford University Press

After the repeal of the Combination Acts in the mid-1820s, the extent of the freedom to combine, and the wisdom of exercising that freedom, continued to be disputed in Britain. Robert Peel, the home secretary responsible for bringing in the measure of 1825, had intended that the scope for legal combination should be kept within very narrow limits. Peel's whig successor, Lord Melbourne, appeared to take a slightly more relaxed view of what the new statute meant. Artisan radicals, on the other hand, claimed the liberty to combine on virtually unrestricted terms, provided only that it was peacefully exercised. This chapter examines the criminal liabilities of strikers after the ban on combinations was lifted. The Wolverhampton trials, which involved the National Association of Union Trades and opened the way to a new phase of judicial creativity towards trade unions and strikes, are analyzed.

Keywords:   Britain, Combination Acts, strikes, freedom to combine, trade unions, Wolverhampton trials, National Association of Union Trades

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