British Trade Unions, 1800–1875

  • A. E. Musson
Part of the Studies in Economic and Social History book series (SESH)


IT is remarkable, indeed perhaps unique in historical studies, that a work which was originally published in 1894 (though later extended to 1920) still remains the standard textbook in its field. That the Webbs’ great History of Trade Unionism still holds its place is a tribute to the immense research and interpretative insight on which it was based, but also perhaps an indication of the relative inferiority of later labour-historical scholarship. Twenty years ago, John Saville was deploring the decline in working-class history since the days of the Webbs, Cole and Beer in the early decades of this century [14]; he viewed the publication of Cole and Filson’s British Working-class Movements: Select Documents, 1789–1875 (1951) as a belated but glorious sunset to this great era. Today, the Webbs’ History still stands as a monumental piece of historical scholarship. There has meanwhile been a great deal of specialised research on particular aspects or periods — on many points the Webbs’ evidence and interpretations have been revealed as inadequate — but no one has yet emerged with comparable breadth as well as depth of scholarship to rewrite the whole history of trade unionism over the past two centuries on the same academic level.


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Copyright information

© The Economic History Society 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. E. Musson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ManchesterUK

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