chapter  15
Pages 9

What were the collective actions open to Edwardians seeking to change their social situation? We shall consider them in this chapter and the next. They were of two kinds, immediate and long-term. The first was collective resistance to some kind of social relationship, which although perhaps legal, seemed a manifest injustice. The second was an attempt, through politics, to change the law itself. Although the two kinds of action seem clearly distinct, they were in fact closely related. For the working-class Edwardian, politics certainly now seemed to offer the best hope of bringing change through collective pressure. But it was the latest stage in an evolution which had seen many phases: peasant rebellion, eighteenth-century food riots, Luddite machine-breaking, and trade union action, which for decades had also been illegal. The vote itself had been secured partly through the threat of force. The two kinds of action thus represent a historical continuity. They shared, moreover, the impact of a class consciousness moulded through a long collective experience, and they also shared the language and moral values through which this consciousness was expressed.