Railway influence in Kingston upon Thames : paternalism, 'welfarism', and nineteenth century society, 1838-1912
The aim of this dissertation has been to move away from a generalised overview of the growth of the Victorian railway system and to consider railway procedure through company influence on named railway personnel. The work is based on the concept of 'total reconstitution', but the linkage is between individuals found in the Kingston upon Thames Access Database, which has been compiled by the Centre for Local History Studies at Kingston University from census enumerators' returns, and the London & South Western Railway (L&SWR) primary sources found in The National Archives at Kew. The linkage is therefore better described as 'occupational reconstitution'. The resulting database of 657 railway employees, together with the family members of those who were 'household heads', provides a unique sample of nineteenth century railway personnel from which it has been possible to verify and refute previous assumptions and estimations regarding recruitment, household structure, fertility and persistence within the local railway employees. Within this 'knowable community' there were some
who had been involved in railway accidents and given evidence at Board of Trade enquiries. It was found that the system of corporate management that emerged within the L&SWR after 1840, was potentially very powerful and contained a variety of expertise. This, together with an emphasis on economy, was a controlling influence on the lives of those who worked for the Company. Although the doctrine of 'common employment' was
laid down as a rule of law in 1837, it was the railway managers who closed the door to 'vicarious liability' prior to The Workmen's Compensation Act, 1897. This was because the majority of those killed or injured during the nineteenth century were
considered to have done so from their own misconduct or want of caution, not from the carelessness of other employees. Although most of the 'death' cases were covered by the 1897 Act, most railway workplace injuries remained outside the protection of this legislation. The Act only applied to employment 'on or in or about' a railway and most of the injuries to railway employees occurred through activities relating to heavy goods
in yards and luggage in stations. Reading the L&SWR nineteenth century minute books it becomes obvious that there were two strategies running concurrently within the Company. The first, found within the L&SWR Traffic Minutes, was a form of 'paternalism' reminiscent of the eighteenth century. This started from the early period of the line and was maintained throughout the nineteenth century and beyond. Within this framework uniformed employees were expected to work protracted hours and the management were slow to implement measures to prevent workplace accidents. However the L&SWR Special Committee
Minutes show the formation of many of the features of a modem business organisation. From the mid 1850s it is possible to find a board of directors with contacts, and managers with specialist knowledge, having access to actuaries, insurance companies and other railway companies' experience. This second strategy resulted in the emergence of carefully formulated structures and procedures, some of which were prototypes of
twentieth century welfarism.