Work and authority in an iron town : Merthyr Tydfil 1760-c.1815
This thesis focuses on work relations within the ironworks established at Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, in the second half of the eighteenth century. From the 1780s, theseconcerns expanded at high speed, to rank amongst the largest industrial plants in Britain. A variety of manuscript sources are exploited to provide an unusually detailed account of eighteenth-centuryworkplace practice. Particular attention is paid to the problems of capitalist control that arose in enterprises which were of unparalleled size, and growing at breakneck pace. The ways in which the slippage of capitalist control was offset are examined. Firstly, the 'culture' of work in the iron trade, the set of protocols which governed the organisation of work by senior workmen, is anatomised. Secondly, an analysis of the peculiar forms of working practice in the collieries and mines of Merthyr is developed to provide an explanation of the fierce loyalties which the rival ironworks could command. The second part of the thesis examines the power of the Merthyr ironmasters, both in south-east Wales, and, more especially, in the corporate politics of the national irontrade. The evolution of a piece of legislation which was sponsored by the ironmasters of South Wales is traced in an effort to understand the extent and nature of their power. Lastly, an account is given of Merthyr's development as an urban settlement, attending closely to the difficulties which industrialisation presented for the district's radical tradition. Stress is laid on the demoralising defeat of Merthyr's radicals in the late 1790s, and the ascension to local power of the ironmasters.