ABSTRACT

The years between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the 1830s witnessed important developments in the forms of economic protest. Even before the repeal of the Combination Laws there was an increasing tendency to replace some of the features of ‘collective bargaining by riot’ by stronger union organisation. Although many of the early unions foundered and ambitious attempts to form general unions were defeated, the period saw an increasing sophistication of tactics and growing emphasis upon ‘respectability’. Although violence was still often associated with trade union activity, especially among the less well-organised trades, its use was already being condemned by a generation of trade union leaders who sought to operate within the existing legal and political framework. These years also marked the most dramatic movement by the agricultural labourers to protect their position in the face of both long-and shortterm changes in their economic and social position.