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Entrepreneurial Politics in Mid-Victorian Britain$
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G. R. Searle

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198203575

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203575.001.0001

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The Labour Problem

The Labour Problem

(p.271) 8 The Labour Problem
Entrepreneurial Politics in Mid-Victorian Britain

G. R. Searle

Oxford University Press

In Britain, all businessmen were necessarily involved, in their day-to-day lives, in handling their work-force, and all would have had strong opinions on trade unionism and factory legislation. During the 1840s and early 1850s at least, most of the entrepreneurial Radicals took an entirely negative stance on both issues. Whereas in nearly all other areas of public life, Radical businessmen were dissatisfied with the status quo and advocated changes, industrial matters most simply wanted to be left alone. Trade unionism and legislative restrictions on the working hours and conditions of factory operatives were seen as unwarranted interference with their rights as employers, to be resisted accordingly. In fending off all external encroachments on their business practices, employers were motivated in varying proportions by self-interest, class pride, and a theoretical commitment to the ‘laws’ of political economy. Yet, despite the obduracy of many employers, others became more relaxed in their attitudes towards both trade unionism and factory legislation.

Keywords:   Britain, trade unionism, factory legislation, entrepreneurial Radicals, working hours, employers, political economy, businessmen

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