Trade Unions and the Industrial Revolution

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Trade Unions had struggled to achieve the freedom to exist in the early stages of the industrial revolution. Provide a critical account of their early developments, noting some of the major changes in their formation and character. A trade union can be described as an organization of workers who have banded together to achieve common goals in key areas and working conditions. They were established around the early eighteenth century and membership was low and most were from within crafting industries but as the success of trade unions became apparent, workers in other industries began to see the benefits of unions to allow them to go from strength to strength and establish themselves in a wider variety of sectors. However, up until the late eighteenth century trade unions were mainly illegal, “unions were forbidden by special statutes, and they could be proceeded against at common law, for ‘conspiracy in restraint of trade’.” (Derry and Jarman, XXXX, p. 141). Since then, memberships levels, mergers, formations, dissolutions and breakaways, have all had an impact resulting in changes in union formation and character, these can be seen largely through the parliamentary acts that have been passed in relation to it. By examining the various historic triumphs of workers over their employers such as the Match-girls and the London Dockers, it is possible to establish the changes in formation and character and how trade unions managed to pull through the industrial revolution to become such an influential part of society today.

One of the first noteable changes was an increase in membership levels because as the employment sector grew with the industrial revolution, workers began to see the opportunities available to them, to improve the quality of their working life by joining trade unions and thus made the effort to form specialized organisations that would protect their interest against exploitive employers. However, in 1799 and 1800 William Pitt, the Prime Minister,

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