Industrial relations in the Northumberland and Durham coal industry : 1825 - 1845
The prime aim of this work is to examine the industrial
relations of the Northumberland and Durham Coal Industry in the
period 1825 - 1845. In order to do so comprehensively several
different themes are examined.
The North-eastern coalfield had a history of m~n~ng enterprises
dating back to monastic and other medieval ecclesiastical ventures.
It had witnessed expansion and development under the monopolistic
Grand Alliance of aristocratic owners in the eighteenth-century. And
in the second quarter of the nineteenth-century it presented a multifaceted
pattern of ownership varying from some of the largest
territorial magnates in the two counties to partnership~composedof
representatives of the mercantile, industrial, professional and
squirearchic elites of the area.
The regularly-expanding labour force was initially composed of a
localised aristocracy of skilled labour, who developed strong bonds
of occupational solidarity, loyalty and craft-pride. They also had a
strong sense of occupational status. Attitudes and beliefs developed
within the workplac~ pervaded community relationships and structures)
and gave them a cohesive and essentially insular character in which
local traditions and folk-lore and bucolic leisure activities
continued to predominate.
The pitmen had a history of combination and industrial action
dating back to the mid-eighteenth-century and their trade unions were
craft-orientated, moderate and community-based. Disputes reflected
the men's concern with status and privileges, which from the 1820's
were being threatened by the employers attempts to rationalise the
production processes and reduce costs. In the period under consideration
there were two major strikes (1831-2 and 1844): the second
involving the national trade union, the Miners' Association of Great
Britain and Ireland. Strikes affected the whole community and the
pit populations responded with a degree of solidarity which made the
enforcement of law and order difficult.
The history of the pitmen's trade unions, and their relationship
with the coal owners has not been considered in detail since 1923.
Using newly-available source material this work will assess the
situation using as its basis the pitmen's own perceptions of the
situation, to provide a framework in which to analyse their
relationship with the employers.