Posts Tagged ‘Bastille’

Labour history uncut: the union road from Tolpuddle

13/11/2012, 03:40:50 PM

Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal continue their tour through Labour history with a look at the role of the unions in establishing the Labour representation committee (LRC) in 1900

For the unions, the road to the Labour representation committee started in a field in Dorset. Not an actual field, obviously. A road starting in a field wouldn’t be very useful, and nobody had yet invented EU infrastructure funding.

In 1832, six agricultural labourers from Tolpuddle gathered together and founded a friendly society. They aimed to protest against the lowering of wages in the area in the hope that they could afford the little luxuries in life, such as food.

The name friendly society was appropriate to the gentle pace of protest in the region. West country militancy had reached its peak a couple of years earlier, in nearby Wroughton in Wiltshire.

In response to cuts to welfare administered by the local church under the poor laws, working men marched along to the church’s graveyard and began smoking. Not in a Tibetan monk-protest type way. They simply lit their pipes and puffed away.


The local gentry thought so anyway. As far as they were concerned pipes in the graveyard was the thin end of a wedge that inevitably led to mob rule and the guillotine. Sure, they called it a friendly society, but wasn’t that just marketing? In 1789 Parisians had probably been invited to the “unexpected open day of the Bastille” too. (more…)

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