The Combination Acts

The Combination Acts

One of the consequences of the industrial revolution was workers began to combine in an attempt to protect their interests. As employers were hostile to these early trade unions, their meetings were often in secret. According to the authors of History of Trade Unionism (1894) pointed out "the midnight meeting of patriots in the corner of the field, the buried box of records, the secret oath, the long terms of imprisonment of the leading officials". (1)

This involved the taking of secret oaths: "The oath was taken at the time of initiation into the union, usually in a private room at a tavern at eight or nine o'clock in the evening. On one side of the apartment was a skeleton, above which a drawn sword and a battle axe were suspended, and in front stood a table upon which lay a bible. The officers of the union wore surplices and addressed each other by their titles of president, vice-president, warden, principal conductor, and inside and outside tiler. The new members were blindfolded for parts of the ceremony, which included the singing of hymns and the recitation of prayers." (2)

In 1799 and 1780 William Pitt, the Prime Minister, decided to take action against political agitation among industrial workers. With the help of William Wilberforce, Combination Laws was passed making it illegal for workers to join together to press their employers for shorter hours or may pay. As a result trade unions were thus effectively made illegal. As A. L. Morton has pointed out: "These laws were the work of Pitt and of his sanctimonious friend Wilberforce whose well known sympathy for the negro slave never prevented him from being the foremost apologist and champion of every act of tyranny in England, from the employment of Oliver the Spy or the illegal detention of poor prisoners in Cold Bath Fields gaol to the Peterloo massacre and the suspension of habeas corpus." (3)

In the House of Commons, men such as Joseph Hume and Sir Francis Burdett led the fight against this legislation. The Combination Laws remained in force until they were revealled in 1824. This was followed by an outbreak of strikes and as a result the 1825 Combination Act was passed which again imposed limitations on the right to strike. (4)

The campaign against the Combination Acts was led by the trade union leader, Francis Place. "He pulled the Act to pieces; complained of it as an anomaly. It not only repealed the statute law, but forbade the operation of the common law, which had thus introduced a great public evil... The bill had been hurried through the House without discussion. He... predicted the most fatal consequences. Liberty, property, life itself was in danger, and Parliament must speedily interfere." (5)

Trade unionists continued to campaign for a change in the law. In 1867 the government set up a Royal Commission on Trade Unions. George Potter, writing for the Bee-Hive, called for a working man to be included or a "gentleman well known to the working classes as possessing a practical knowledge of the working of Trade Unions, and in whom they might feel confidence." The government rejected the idea of a working man but they did ask Frederic Harrison to serve on the commission. Harrison was a very useful member of the commission, preparing union witnesses by telling them in advance what questions would be asked and rescued the from difficult situations during their cross-examination. (6)

Frederic Harrison, Thomas Hughes and Thomas Anson, 2nd Earl of Lichfield, refused to sign the Majority Report that was hostile to trade unions and instead produced a Minority Report where he argued that trade unions should be given privileged legal status. Harrison suggested several changes to the law: (i) Persons combining should not be liable for indictment for conspiracy unless their actions would be criminal if committed by a single person; (ii) The common law doctrine of restraint of trade in its application to trade associations should be repealed; (iii) That all legislation dealing with specifically with the activities of employers or workmen should be repealed; (iv) That all trade unions should receive full and positive protection for their funds and other property. (7)

The Trade Union Congress campaigned to have the Minority Report accepted by the new Liberal government headed by William Gladstone. This campaign was successful and the 1871 Trade Union Act was based largely on the Minority Report. This act secured the legal status of trade unions. As a result of this legislation no trade union could be regarded as criminal because "in restraint of trade"; trade union funds were protected. Although trade unions were pleased with this act, they were less happy with the Criminal Law Amendment Act passed the same day that made picketing illegal. (8)

The early trade unions were not direct descendants of the gilds which, although designed to protect the interests of all members of a trade, were in practice dominated by the masters. From the second half of the seventeenth century the gilds began to crumble and the journeymen had therefore to look elsewhere for the protection of their interests.

Apprenticeship, wage rates, price lists, tramping, and hours of work had all previously been regulated by gild rules and in some cases by municipal law and act of parliament. In the eighteenth century combinations of journeymen were formed to assume these functions. The early unions were often small and local, and were largely limited to skilled craftsmen: hatters, printers, bookbinders, weavers, woolcombers, shearmen, stockingers, cotton spinners, steam-engine makers, shipwrights, brushmakers, masons, ironfounders, miners, potters, shoemakers, tailors, cutlers, coopers, bricklayers, carpenters-in short, all those known in the nineteenth century and later as the "trades".

Not until the end of the nineteenth century was it considered either practical or desirable to organize labourers. From 1799 to 1824, under the Combination Acts, such combinations of workmen (and also of employers) were illegal. One result of this was to put a premium on secrecy. Even after the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1824 secrecy was continued because of the hostility of employers, who in some cases sought to impose the "document" requiring their men formally to renounce the union.

The oath was taken at the time of initiation into the union, usually in a private room at a tavern at eight or nine o'clock in the evening. The new members were blindfolded for parts of the ceremony, which included the singing of hymns and the recitation of prayers.

Even in the darkest war years the democratic impulse can still be felt at work beneath the surface. It contributed an affirmation of rights, a glimpse of a plebeian millennium, which was never extinguished. The Combination Acts (1799-1800) served only to bring illegal Jacobin and trade union strands closer together. Even beneath the fever of the "invasion" years, new ideas and new forms of organization : continue to ferment. There is a radical alteration in the subpolitical political attitudes of the people to which the experiences of tens of thousands of unwilling soldiers contributed. By 1811 we can witness the simultaneous emergence of a new popular Radicalism and of a newly-militant trade unionism. In part, this was the product of new experiences, in part it was the inevitable response to the years of reaction.

The Industrial Revolution made more formidable combinations possible. When the industrial discontent was crossed with political Jacabinism the ruling class was terrified into more drastic action, and the result was the Combination Laws of 1799 and 1800. These laws were the work of Pitt and of his sanctimonious friend Wilberforce whose well known sympathy for the negro slave never prevented him from being the foremost apologist and champion of every act of tyranny in England, from the employment of Oliver the Spy or the illegal detention of poor prisoners in Cold Bath Fields gaol to the Peterloo massacre and the suspension of habeas corpus.

The Act of 1799, slightly amended in 1800, made all combinations illegal as such, whether conspiracy, restraint of trade or the like could be proved against them or no. In theory, the Act applied to employers as well as to workmen, but though the latter were prosecuted in thousands, there is not a single case of any employer being interfered with. Only too often the magistrates who enforced the law were themselves employers who had been guilty of breaches of it. Prosecutions under the old common law continued to be numerous.

1832 Reform Act and the House of Lords (Answer Commentary)

The Chartists (Answer Commentary)

Women and the Chartist Movement (Answer Commentary)

Benjamin Disraeli and the 1867 Reform Act (Answer Commentary)

William Gladstone and the 1884 Reform Act (Answer Commentary)

Richard Arkwright and the Factory System (Answer Commentary)

Robert Owen and New Lanark (Answer Commentary)

James Watt and Steam Power (Answer Commentary)

Road Transport and the Industrial Revolution (Answer Commentary)

Canal Mania (Answer Commentary)

Early Development of the Railways (Answer Commentary)

The Domestic System (Answer Commentary)

The Luddites: 1775-1825 (Answer Commentary)

The Plight of the Handloom Weavers (Answer Commentary)

Health Problems in Industrial Towns (Answer Commentary)

Public Health Reform in the 19th century (Answer Commentary)

(1) Beatrice Webb and Sidney Webb, History of Trade Unionism (1894) page 57

(2) J. F. C. Harrison, The Common People (1984) page 272

(3) A. Morton, A People's History of England (1938) page 364

(4) Frank McLynn, The Road Not Taken: How Britain Narrowly Missed a Revolution (2013) pages 283-284

(5) Graham Wallas, Life of Francis Place (1918) page 224

(6) Martha S. Vogeler, Frederic Harrison : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(7) Eric Hopkins, A Social History of the English Working Classes (1979) page 154

(8) Paul Adelman, Gladstone, Disraeli and Later Victorian Politics (1970) page 8


The Combination Acts - History

England History. The Luddites and the Combination Acts

The Combination Act of 1800

Source : University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
Statutes at Large, (39 and 40 Geo. III, c. 106), LIII, pp. 847-862 in A. Aspinall and E. Anthony Smith, eds., English Historical Documents, XI, 1783-1832, New York: Oxford University Press, 1959,.pp. 749-52. During the 18th century a succession of laws prohibited workers from organizing themselves for the purpose of collective bargaining with their employers. In 1799 and 1800, under the fear of Jacobinism, the Combination Acts further limited the ability of workers to organize. The Act of 1800 was not repealed until 1824.

An Act to repeal an Act, passed in the last Session of Parliament, intitulated, “An Act to prevent Unlawful Combinations of Workmen” and to substitute other provisions in lieu thereof.

I. Whereas it is expedient to explain and amend an Act [39 Geo. III, c. 81]. to prevent unlawful combinations of workmen . be it enacted . that from . the passing of this Act, the said Act shall be repealed and that all contracts, covenants and agreements whatsoever . at any time . heretofore made . between any journeymen manufacturers or other persons . for obtaining an advance of wages of them or any of them, or any other journeymen manufacturers or workmen, or other persons in any manufacture, trade or business, or for lessening or altering their or any of their usual hours or nine of working, or for decreasing the quantity of work (save and except any contract made or to be made between any master and his journeyman or manufacturer, for or on account of the work or service of such journeyman or manufacturer with whom such contract may be made), or for preventing or hindering any person or persons from employing whomsoever he, she, or they shall think proper to employ . or for controlling or anyway affecting any person or persons carrying on any manufacture, trade or business, in the conduct or management thereof, shall be . illegal, null and void.

II. . No journeyman, workman or other person shall at any time after the passing of this Act make or enter into, or be concerned in the making of or entering into any such contract, covenant or agreement, in writing or not in writing . and every . workman . who, after the passing of this Act, shall be guilty of any of the said offences, being thereof lawfully convicted, upon his own confession, or the oath or oaths of one or more credible witness or witnesses, before any two justices of the Peace . within three calendar months next after the offence shall have been committed, shall, by order of such justices, be committed to and confined in the common gaol, within his or their jurisdiction, for any time not exceeding 3 calendar months, or at the discretion of such justices shall be committed to some House of Correction within the same jurisdiction, there to remain and to be kept to hard labour for any time not exceeding 2 calendar months.

III. . Every . workman . who shall at any time after the passing of this Act enter into any combination to obtain an advance of wages, or to lessen or alter the hours or duration of the time of working, or to decrease the quantity of work, or for any other purpose contrary to this Act, or who shall, by giving money, or by persuasion, solicitation or intimidation, or any other means, wilfully and maliciously endeavour to prevent any unhired or unemployed journeyman or workman, or other person, in any manufacture, trade or business, or any other person wanting employment in such manufacture, trade or business, from hiring himself to any manufacturer or tradesman, or person conducting any manufacture, trade or business, or who shall, for the purpose of obtaining an advance of wages, or for any other purpose contrary to the provisions of this Act, wilfully and maliciously decoy, persuade, solicit, intimidate, influence or prevail, or attempt or endeavour to prevail, on any journeyman or workman, or other person hired or employed, or to be hired or employed in any such manufacture, trade or business, to quit or leave his work, service or employment, or who shall wilfully and maliciously hinder or prevent any manufacturer or tradesman, or other person, from employing in his or her manufacture, trade or business, such journeymen, workmen and other persons as he or she shall think proper, or who, being hired or employed, shall, without any just or reasonable cause, refuse to work with any other journeyman or workman employed or hired to work therein, and who shall be lawfully convicted of any of the said offences, upon his own confession, or the oath or oaths of one or more credible witness or witnesses, before any two justices of the Peace for the county . .or place where such offence shall be committed, within 3 calendar months . shall, by order of such justices, be committed to . gaol for any time not exceeding 3 calendar months or otherwise be committed to some House of Correction . for any time not exceeding 2 calendar months.

IV. And for the more effectual suppression of all combinations amongst journeymen, workmen and other persons employed in any manufacture, trade or business, be it further enacted, that all and every persons and person whomsoever (whether employed in any such manufacture, trade or business, or not) who shall attend any meeting had or held for the purpose of making or entering into any contract, covenant or agreement, by this Act declared to be illegal, or of entering into, supporting, maintaining, continuing, or carrying on any combination for any purpose by this Act declared to be illegal, or who shall summons, give notice to, call upon, persuade, entice, solicit, or by intimidation, or any other means, endeavour to induce any journeyman, workman, or other person, employed in any manufacture, trade or business, to attend any such meeting, or who shall collect, demand, ask, or receive any sum of money from any such journeyman, workman, or other person, for any of the purposes aforesaid, or who shall persuade, entice, solicit, or by intimidation, or any other means, endeavour to induce any such journeyman, workman or other person to enter into or be concerned in any such combination, or who shall pay any sum of money, or make or enter into any subscription or contribution, for or towards the support or encouragement of any such illegal meeting or combination, and who shall be lawfully convicted of any of the said offences, upon his own confession, or the oath or oaths of one or more credible witness or witnesses, before any two justices of the Peace. within 3 calendar months . shall . be committed to and confined in the common gaol . for any time not exceeding 3 calendar months, or otherwise be committed to some House of Correction. for any time not exceeding 2 calendar months.

V. [No person shall contribute for any expenses incurred for acting contrary to this Act, or towards the support of any person to induce him not to work, on penalty not exceeding £10, and any person collecting money for such purposes, shall forfeit, not exceeding £5. Offences shall be determined in a summary way before two justices, who, shall fix the penalty, and if not paid, shall cause it to be levied by distress, and if not to be had, shall commit the offender to the common gaol or House of Correction.]

VI. [Sums contributed as subscriptions towards any of the purposes prohibited by this Act to be forfeited.]

VII, VIII. [Concerning the recovery of such contribution money.]

IX. [Offenders may be compelled to give evidence and shall be indemnified from prosecution for any matter relative to their testimony.]

X, XI. [Justices may summon offenders and witnesses and may commit them for non-appearance or refusal to testify.]

XIII. [Convictions to be transmitted to the next General or Quarter Sessions to be filed, and if appeal be made the justices shall then proceed to hear it.]

XIV. [Act not to abridge powers now given by law to justices touching combinations of manufacturers, &c.]

XV. [Act not to empower manufacturers to employ workmen contrary to the provisions now in force for regulating the conduct of any particular manufacture, without licence from a justice, who may grant the same, whenever the ordinary course of the manufacture is obstructed.]

XVI. [No master in the trade in which any offence is charged to have been committed, shall act as a justice under this Act.]

XVII. [All contracts between masters or other persons, for reducing the wages of workmen or for altering the usual hours of working, or increasing the quantity of work, shall be void, and masters convicted thereof shall forfeit £20.]

XVIII. And whereas it will be a great convenience and advantage to masters and workmen engaged in manufactures, that a cheap and summary mode be established for settling all disputes that may arise between them respecting wages and work be it further enacted . that, from and after 1 August . 1800, in all cases that shall or may arise within. England, where the masters and workmen cannot agree respecting the price or prices to be paid for work actually done in any manufacture, or any injury or damage done or alleged to have been done by the workmen to the work, or respecting any delay or supposed delay on the part of the workmen in finishing, the work, or the not finishing such work in a good and workman-like manner, or according to any contract and in all cases of dispute or difference, touching any contract or agreement for work or wages between masters and workmen in any trade or manufacture, which cannot be otherwise mutually adjusted and settled by and between them, it shall and may be, and it is hereby declared to be lawful for such masters and workmen between whom such dispute or difference shall arise . or either of them, to demand and have an arbitration or reference of such matter or matters in dispute and each of them is hereby authorised and empowered forthwith to nominate and appoint an arbitrator . to arbitrate and determine such matter or matters in dispute as aforesaid by writing, subscribed by him in the presence of and attested by one witness . and to deliver the same personally to the other party . and to require the other party to name an arbitrator in like manner within two days after such reference to arbitration shall have been so demanded and such arbitrators so appointed . are hereby authorised and required to . examine upon oath the parties and their witnesses . and forthwith to proceed to hear and determine the complaints of the parties, and the matter or matters in dispute between them and the award to be made by such arbitrators within the time herein-after limited, shall in all cases be final and conclusive between the parties but in case such arbitrators so appointed shall not agree to decide such matter or matters in dispute, so to be referred to them as aforesaid, and shall not make and sign their award within the space of three days after the signing of the submission to their award by both parties, that then it shall be lawful for the parties or either of them to require such arbitrators forthwith and without delay to go before and attend upon one of his Majesty’s justices of the Peace acting in and for the county . or place where such dispute shall happen and be referred, and state to such justice the points in difference between them . which points . the said justice shall . hear and determine, and for that purpose . examine the parties and their witnesses upon oath, if he shall think fit.

XIX. [The parties may extend the time limited for making an award.]

XXII. [If either party shall not perform what is directed by the award, he may be committed.]

XXIII. [Any person convicted under this Act may appeal to the General or Quarter Sessions, whose decision shall be final.]


The Combination Acts - History

This Chronology presents important dates in the history of social change and social reform in Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries including parliamentary reform, industrialisation, urbanisation, industrial disputes, advances in technology, labour rights, sanitary conditions and health protection, education, social welfare, female emancipation, women's suffrage, and children’s rights.

1799 The Combination Act , titled An Act to prevent Unlawful Combinations of Workmen , prohibits trade unions and collective bargaining by workers.

1801 The official Census reports that Britain has a population of a little of 10.5 million.

1802 The Health and Morals of Apprentices Act (also known as the Factory Act) limits hours of work for apprentices to 12 per day. No night work is allowed. Young employees are to provide education, decent clothing and accommodation to apprentices.

1807 Gas lights introduced in London. The Society for the Suppression of Vice is established. The Slave Act abolishes slave trade in the British Empire, but not slavery itself. Parochial Schools Bill makes provision for the education of the labouring classes.

1811 The National Society for the Education of the Poor founded.

1811-17 Luddites (mostly textile artisans in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire) riot and destroy labour-saving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.

1814 The British and Foreign School Society is founded by liberal Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Jews as an alternative to the National Society.

1815 Corn Laws cut off less expensive foreign wheat. Apothecaries Act sets national (England and Wales) standards for licensing of apothecaries.

1816 Safety lamps are introduced in mines. Robert Owen opens first infant school in New Lanark, Scotland.

1819 The First Factory Act stops children under nine from working in factories and limits those aged nine to sixteen to 72 hours. Peterloo massacre. An estimated 11 people, including a woman and a child, die from saber cuts and trampling by a cavalry charge, and over 400 men, women and children receive serious injuries at a mass reform meeting of 60,000 people on the 16th of August around what's now St Peters Square, Manchester. The term 'Peterloo' was intended to mock the soldiers who attacked unarmed civilians by echoing the term 'Waterloo'.

1820-1825 Legal Acts reform criminal codes. London's Regent Street built for expensive shopping.

1820-1850 A rapid growth of the British economy. Britain as a country gets richer, but the standard of living of the urban lower classes decreases. A respectable paid occupation for a middle-class woman is governess or dressmaker.

1821 The population of England and Wales is 11.5 million, Scotland 2 million, Ireland almost 7 million. The population of London is almost 1.5 million. Beginning of a spread of factory system and growth of industrial towns. The Bank of England (image) begins to function as a central bank.

1824 Combinations Acts of 1799 and 1800 repealed. Trade Unions legalised.

1825 Combinations of Workmen Act prohibits trade unions to collectively bargain for better terms and conditions at work, and suppresses the right to strike. Stockton and Darlington railway opens with a thirteen tonne train, 'Rocket', which achieves a speed of 44 miles per hour.

1826 Journeymen Steam Engine, Machine Makers and Millwrights Friendly Society formed.

1828 Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. Non-Anglican Protestants such as Unitarians, Wesleyan Methodists, Primitive Methodists and the Society of Friends, could sit in Parliament and participate in local government.

1829 The Catholic Emancipation Act ends most of denials or restrictions of Catholic civil rights, ownership of property, and holding of public office. This legislation allowed Catholics to sit as MPs for the first time since the Elizabethan Act of Settlement in 1558/9. Liverpool and Manchester railway opens. Sir Robert Peel’s police make their appearance in London. Before this time public order was maintained by the military forces.

1830 The Manchester-Liverpool Railway is opened. The Swing Riots, a widespread uprising by agricultural workers, begins with the destruction of threshing machines in the Elham Valley area of East Kent in the summer of 1830. It spreads throughout the whole of southern England and East Anglia.

1830s Demolition of houses arising from street clearances, warehouse construction and railway building in London.

1831 Factory Act prohibits night work of person under the age of 21. The Truck Act prohibits in certain trades the payment of wages in goods, tokens, or otherwise than in the current coin of the realm. The cholera epidemic draws attention to the deplorable lack of sanitation in the industrial cities.

1832 1832 The Reform Act enfranchises middle-class males and restructures representation in Parliament. Report of the Select Committee on the Bill for the Regulation of Factories describes appalling conditions, excessive hours of work and cruelty to children in factories.

1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. Parish workhouses are instituted. Robert Owen founds the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union. Chimney Sweeps Act forbids the apprenticing of any boy under the age of 10 years, and the employment of children under 14 in chimney sweeping unless they are apprenticed or on trial. The apprentices are not to be 'evil treated' by their employers, and any complaints of the children are to be heard by justices of the peace.

1835 Municipal Corporations Act replaces the unpaid administration of squires and magistrates with professional bureaucrats serving elected councils. Working Men’s Association is founded. The legislation follows the Reform Act of 1832, which abolishes most of the rotten boroughs for parliamentary purposes.

1836 The Civil Marriage Act broadens the range of legitimate marriage partners, regardless of religion and ceremony. The Church of England loses its monopoly over marriage services, and non-Anglicans are allowed to marry either in their own Church or in Registry Offices.

1836-1848 Chartist agitation for electoral reform and universal male suffrage. The University of London offers medical degree that combine academic instruction with clinical practice in medicine

1837 Queen Victoria succeeds to the throne. The middle class makes up about 15 percent of the population of England. The mandatory civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths is introduced in England and Wales.

1838 People's Charter published. Anti-Corn Law League founded. London-Birmingham line opens, and the railway boom starts (17 September).

1839 Child Custody Act gives mother limited rights in her children and right to petition for co-guardianship.Rural Police Act empowers Justices of the Peace to establish county police forces.

1840 The population of England and Wales is almost 16 million. Vaccination Act makes free vaccination available. Report of the Select Committee on the Health of the Towns exposes squalid living conditions in many industrial areas and recommends to create district boards of health which turn the public attention to the causes of illness and suggest means by which the sources of contagion might be removed. Penny Post: an inexpensive and fast mail service is established. Vaccination for the poor introduced. Chimney Sweeps Act prohibits any child under the age of 16 years being apprenticed, and any person under 21 being compelled or knowingly allowed to ascend or descend a chimney or flue for sweeping, cleaning or coring. Grammar Schools Act allows endowment funds to be spent on modern and commercial subjects.

1842 Report on Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain , compiled by Edwin Chadwick, Secretary to the Poor Law Commission, reveals that working-class streets and homes are appallingly and dangerously unsanitary. Mines and Collieries Act makes it illegal for women and children under ten to work below ground. Prime Minister Robert Peel reintroduces income tax (which had last been collected in 1816). The tax becomes the government's principal source of revenue for public spending. Railway from Manchester to London opens.

1843 The Royal Commission for Inquiry into the State of Large Towns and Populous Districts established.

1844 The Royal Commission of Health in Towns established. Beginning of the cooperative movement at Rochdale. Labour in Factories Act amends the regulations concerning factory inspectors and certifying surgeons. For the first time machinery is required to be guarded.The Railway Regulation Act provides for a minimum standard for rail passenger travel. It also makes provision of certain compulsory services at a price affordable to poorer people to enable them to travel to find work.

1845 Engels laments in his Condition of the Working Class in England : &ldquoThe worker is forced to live in such dilapidated dwellings because he cannot afford to rent better accommodation, or because no better cottages are available close to the factory where he is working.&rdquo The Final Report of the Health of the Towns Commission recommends that local authorities should be responsible for drainage, paving, cleansing and water supply as well as they should have the authority to require that landlords clean and repair properties dangerous to public health. The Bastardy Clause of the 1834 Poor Law repealed.

1845-48 The potato blight destroys Ireland's population growth up to a million people die of malnutrition two million emigrate. The new technology of steam printing makes books cheaper.

1846 Parliament begins defining what constitutes unfit conditions for living accommodation in the first of several Nuisances Removal Acts. Repeal of the Corn Laws.

1847 Cholera epidemics in London and other industrial cities in England. The Ten Hour Act further limits the workday for both women and adolescent males to ten hours daily and 58 hours in a week. Asylum for Idiots established at Highgate. James Simpson Young first uses chloroform for women in labour. William Dixon and W. P. Roberts, two of the leaders of the Miners' Association of Great Britain and Ireland, become the first union officials to stand for election to parliament.

1848 Major cholera epidemic sweeping westwards in Europe in England about 60,000 deaths, about 14,000 in London alone. Influenza pandemic, 50,000 deaths in London. Public Health Act establishes a General Board of Health empowered to create local boards of health which have authority to deal with water supplies, sewerage, control of offensive trades, quality of foods, paving of streets, removal of garbage, and other sanitary measures. The Queen’s College for Women is founded in London. An Act of Parliament established 'ragged schools' for the children of the poor. Publication of John Stuart Mill's Principles of Political Economy , the book which presented a more optimistic view of the possibility for improving the conditions of living of the working class.

1849 Another cholera epidemic 3,183 deaths reported in London. There are over 3,000 textile factories in Britain.

1850 Factories Act amends the act of 1847 by stating the times between which young people and women could be employed in factories and increases the total hours which could be worked by them to 60 per week. Public Libraries Act enacted.

1851 The population of England is almost 18 million. 54 percent live in urban areas. Saltaire, a model housing development is built by Sir Titus Salt, a leading industrialist in the Yorkshire woollen industry. The Great Exhibition, a celebration of technological achievement and British imperial power, opens at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London (1 May). It attracts more than six million visitors to Britain, the richest nation in the world. There are 161,000 commercial horse-drawn vehicles on British roads, most of them are linked to railway travel. Cripples Home and Industrial School for Girls founded at Marylebone.

1852 The first public library opens in Manchester.

1853 Compulsory Vaccination Act introduces vaccination for all infants within four months of birth, but contains no powers of enforcement. Queen Victoria uses chloroform at the birth of her eighth child, and thereby ensures its use as an anaesthetic.

1854 London Working Men's College is founded.

1854-56 Crimean War: Florence Nightingale organises hospitals and nursing services.

1855 Metropolis Management Act creates the Metropolitan Board of Works, body to co-ordinate the construction of the London's infrastructure. Abolition of stamp duties on newspapers enables the British workers to read newspapers at an affordable price.

1857 Matrimonial Causes Act establishes divorce courts (The Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes). It entitles couples to divorce without the need to obtain permission via a private Act of Parliament. The grounds, however, are different for men and women: a husband can divorce his wife on the grounds of adultery the woman, on the other hand, must prove adultery and cruelty or desertion. The famous report on prostitution by William Acton presents a conservative view of female sexuality.

1858 Workhouse Visiting Society is formed. The first swimming bath for ladies is opened at Marylebone, London. Lionel de Rothschild is the first Jew seated in Parliament. The property qualification of MPs abolished.

1859 Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species .

1860 Food and Drugs Act prevents the adulteration of food.The Nightingale School of Nursing is founded.

1860s Philanthropic societies build model housing: blocks of tenements (mainly in London) where working people can rent flats, e.g. Beaconsfield buildings, Improved Industrial Dwellings Company and Peabody Trust. Some large factory owners also build model housing estates for employees, e.g. the manufacturer and philanthropist Titus Salt at Saltaire.

1861 Local Government Act amends the 1858 act by requiring local authorities to purify sewerage before discharging it into rivers and canals. Post Office savings scheme for ordinary people is launched. The abolition of the 'Taxes on Knowledge' (the stamp duties on newspapers and the customs and excise duties on paper) results in spectacular development of daily and Sunday newspapers. Lectures in physiology opened to ladies at University College, London.

1862 Companies Act provides stimulus to accumulation of capital in shares. Florence Nightingale establishes Nightingale School for Nurses at St. Thomas' Hospital (image).

1863 The world's first underground railway opens in London in January between Paddington and Farringdon using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. There are over 1,000 newspapers in Britain. Queen's Institute founded in London for the industrial training of women.

1864 The first Contagious Diseases Act is passed, permitting forcible registration and regular internal examination of women suspected to be prostitute, within a radius of 11 army camps and naval ports in England and Ireland.

1865 Girls are admitted to Cambridge Local Examinations. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson passes the Society of Apothecaries examination and becomes the first British woman licensed as a doctor. Barbara Bodichon forms Women's Suffrage Committee.

1866 A second new Contagious Diseases Act adds Chatham and Windsor to the list of towns and introduces the enforcement of fortnightly medical examinations of women for venereal disease. Women's suffrage societies founded in London, Edinburgh, and Manchester.

1867 Second Reform Act doubles the electorate (15 August). Metropolitan Poor Act provides for the establishment of hospitals for the sick and insane. John Stuart Mill introduces the first women’s suffrage bill into parliament. Josephine Butler establishes the first Industrial Home which provides former prostitutes with work, such as making clothes and envelopes. Factory Extension Act brings all factories employing more than 50 people under the terms of all existing factory acts, forbids the employment of children, young people and women on Sundays and amends some regulations of previous acts.

1868 Founding of the Trades Union Congress. Torren's Act imposes punishment for landlords who fail to improve their property. Last public execution in England.

1869 The Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts founded. The first municipal housing estate in Europe, St Martin’s Cottages are built in Liverpool. The Charity Organisation Society is founded in response to growing pauperism in London and other large cities during the 1860s. First women's college at Cambridge (Girton — image). Women ratepayers receive municipal franchise. Imprisonment for debt is abolished. Anglican Church disestablished in Ireland.

1870 W. E. Forster's Education Act makes elementary education available to all children in England and Wales. William Fowler MP introduces a private member's bills to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts. A Royal Commission is set up to consider the matter. The First Married Women’s Property Act allows wives to retain earned income and property acquired after her marriage.Over 30 large music halls in London and almost 400 large music halls in Britain.

1871 The population of England and Wales is 27,7 million, Scotland 3.5 million, Ireland 5.4. Religious tests for university teachers and officials abolished. Trade unions legalised and workers are granted the right to strike. Bank Holidays Act lays down that Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August and 26th of December (if a weekday) should be official holidays.

1872 Voting by secret ballot is introduced in national elections. National Agricultural Labourers Union founded. Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act prohibits the employment in the mines of all girls, women and boys under the age of 12 years introduces powers to appoint inspectors of mines and sets out rules regarding ventilation, blasting and machinery.

1872 Infant Custody Act provides a possibility that a mother can obtain child custody even if she committed adultery.

1874 Women’s Trade Union League formed. London Medical College for Women opened. Factory Act raises the minimum working age to nine limits the working day for women and young people to 10 hours in the textile industry, to be between 6 am and 6 pm and reduces the working week to 561 hours. London School of Medicine for Women founded.

1875 The Artizans Dwellings Act allows councils to clear and redevelop slum areas and re-house inhabitants.

1875 Women physicians can be licensed to practise.

1877  Royal Free Hospital admits women as medical students.

1878 Women are admitted to degree courses at the University of London. Maria Grey Training College for women teachers founded. Legal separation permitted if wife is repeatedly assaulted. Electric lights are installed in some London streets. Phillipa Flowerday appointed as nurse to the J & J Colman (Norwich) to work among the factory people, and to visit them at home when they are ill. She is believed to be the first trained nurse to be appointed to work as a nurse within an industrial organisation.

1877 Social campaigners, Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh, are tried for republishing Charles Knowlton's The Fruits of Philosophy , a book advocating contraception. Their action is considered 'likely to deprave or corrupt those whose minds are open to immoral influences', and they are sentenced to six months imprisonment.

1877 Electric lights are installed on some London streets.

1879  First women's colleges at Oxford — Somerville (image) and Lady Margaret Hall). Pharmaceutical Society admits women as members. London's first telephone exchange opens.

1880s Some 120,000 Jews flee from Eastern Europe to England to avoid religious and economic persecution. The middle classes begin to move to the suburbs from city centres. Stores begin to sell canned meat and fruits.

1880 Elementary education becomes compulsory for children aged 7 to 10. Women admitted to degrees at the University of London. Josephine Butler begins her campaign against the 'white slave trade' and names officials in the trafficking of girls from London to Belgium.

1880-96  Real wages go up by almost 45 per cent.

1882 A second Married Women's Property Act entitles married women to retain separate ownership of any property they own before their marriage. (Previously, a wife's existing property legally passed into the ownership of her husband when they married.)

1883 Married women obtain the right to acquire their own property. The first electric tram is in operation.

1884 The third Reform Act creates a uniform franchise qualification based on the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1868. As a consequence almost two-thirds of adult males in England and Wales, three-fifths in Scotland and half in Ireland are entitled to vote in parliamentary elections. The Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes is appointed. Marks & Spencer opens as a stall at Kirkgate, Leeds.

1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act raises age of consent to 16. Criminal Law Amendment Act permits wives to testify against husbands in court. The Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes reveals extent of overcrowding in inner city areas. John Kemp Starley invents the modern safety bicycle. Domestic service still remains the largest area of employment for women and girls, but clerical work and shop work moves to the second place.The railway network covers 27,000 kilometres (17,000 miles)

1886 The Contagious Diseases Acts are repealed.

The Maintenance in Case of Desertion Act enables magistrates to award the wife maintenance up to a maximum limit of 2 pounds a week if she can show the Bench that her husband was able to support her and their children but refused or neglected to do so and deserted her. The Guardianship of Infants Act mandates that when father dies, guardianship passes to mother.

1886 Shop Hours Regulation Act regulates the hours of work of children and young persons in shops. The hours of work are not to exceed 74 per week, including meal times.The Salvation Army has 1,749 congregations and over 4,000 officers in Britain.

1887 Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee turns into a celebration of fifty years of domestic progress.

1888 Local Government Act establishes county councils and county borough councils in England and Wales. 1,400 women go on strike in protest of the poor wages and dangerous conditions in the at Bryant & May matchstick factory. Trade Union membership stands at 750,000. Jack the Ripper murders 5 women in London slums.

1889 Employment of children under age 10 prohibited. Elementary school compulsory for children up to age 12. London County Council (LCC) formed. Women's Franchise League established.

1890 Housing of the Working Classes Act allows London’s local councils to build houses as well as clearing away slums. Councils have to re-house at least half the people displaced by slum clearance. First moving-picture shows appear. The first electric underground train line in London begins to operate.

1892 London County Council (LCC) begins building tenement blocks.

1893 The Independent Labour Party formed. Elementary Education Act (Blind and Deaf Children) requires provision of free schools for blind and deaf children.

1894 Parish councils created. Trade union membership reaches 1.5 million.

1897 Queen Victoria's Dimanond Jubilee marks the high tide of the British Empire. Workmen’s Compensation Act establishes the principle that persons injured at work should be compensated. National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) founded. Actress Minni Palmer becomes the first woman car driver and car owner.

1898 Thomas M. Legge (later Sir, 1863-1932) appointed as the first medical inspector of factories.

1901 Queen Victoria dies at the age of 80. Her reign lasted 63 years – the longest of any British monarch. The middle class makes up about 25 percent of the population of England. Census reveals that there are 212 female doctors in the UK.

1902 Balfour's Education Act provides for secondary education.

1903 LCC, influenced by the Garden City and Arts & Crafts movements, begins to build 'garden village' estates in the suburbs. The first was Totterdown Fields estate in Tooting. The Women's Social and Political Union is founded by Emmeline Pankhurst with the aim of gaining the vote for women. In response to a government unsympathetic to their arguments, the group turns to acts of civil disobedience. The London County Council Tramways first electric line opens in May between Westminster Bridge and Tooting.

1905 London-based churches, missions, and charities support some 7,500 volunteers and almost 1,000 paid visitors, the vast majority of them being middle or upper class women.

1906  The Liberal Party wins the general election and embarks on a significant series of reforms. In extending the principle of governmental responsibility for the nation's citizens, these lay the foundations of the modern welfare state. Workers are compensated for injuries at work. The National Federation of Women Workers is set up by Mary MacArthur.

1907 Under the Qualification of Women Act , women can be elected onto borough and county councils and can also be elected mayor. Act allowing marriage with deceased wife’s sister. Free medical treatment for children at schools.

1908 Old age pension introduced. Five shillings a week to be given to every poor man and woman over 70 years old.

1909 Campaign for female suffrage intensifies.

1911 National Insurance Act: insurance provided for sick workers. Every worker with less than 100 pounds a year is to pay fourpence a week to the State. The employer adds fivepence and the Government threepence, making it all a shilling a week, which is paid to a doctor (known as the panel doctor), who then gives the worker free treatment when he or she is sick.

1913 Maternity, sickness, and unemployment benefits are introduced in Britain. Cat and Mouse Act passed, allowing hunger-striking women suffragists in prisons to be released when their health is threatened and then re-arrested when they had recovered.

1914 The First World War begins. The wartime effort sees a large influx of women into the workforce, to fill jobs vacated by men conscripted to serve in the war against Germany.

1918 The First World War ends. Women of thirty (wives of electors and female householders) are allowed to vote.

1919 Lady Nancy Astor becomes the first female Member of Parliament.

1920 Sex Discrimination Removal Act allows women access to the legal profession and accountancy.

1923 Matrimonial Causes Act grants divorce on same ground to both sexes.

1925 Widows’ Pension Act passed.

1929  Suffrage for all over 21.

Select Bibliography

Davies, Gill. The Illustrated Timeline of Medicine . New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2011.

Morgan, Kenneth O., ed. The Oxford Popular History of Britain . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Mathias, Peter. The First Industrial Nation: The Economic History of Britain 1700–1914 . New York: Routledge, 2001.

Thackeray, Frank W., John E. Findling, eds. Events that Changed Great Britain Since 1689 . Westport: Greenwood, 2002.


Access options

1. Frow , R. and Frow , E. and Katanka , Michael , History of British Trade-Unionism: A Select Bibliography ( London , 1969 ) 12 Google Scholar (illustration of membership card). For comment on this motto see Musson , A.E. , Trade Unions and Social History ( London , 1974 ) viii Google Scholar .

Edmund Burke also recognized the terminological problem: ‘When bad men combine, the good must associate…’. Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770), reprinted in Langford , Paul , ed., Writings and Speeches , 5 vols. to date ( Oxford , 1981 —) ii: 315 Google Scholar .

2. 7 Geo. 1, st. 1, c. 13 (1721). Previous statutes had called them ‘conspiracies’ or ‘confederacies’. See, e.g., 2 and 3 Edw. 6, c. 15 (1548) 3 Hen. 6, c. 1 (1424).

3. R. and E. Frow and Michael Katanka, supra note 1, front cover (illustration of membership card).

4. See George , M. Dorothy , ‘The Combination Laws Reconsidered’ , Economic Journal (Supp: Economic History Ser., No. 2) Supp.: 214, 223Google Scholar Oxford English Dictionary ( Oxford , 1933 )Google Scholar , s.v. ‘combination’ (‘formerly used almost always in a bad sense, as conspiracy, self-interested or illegal confederacy’) Johnson , Samuel , Dictionary ( London , 1755 )Google Scholar , s.v. ‘combination’ (‘now generally used in an ill sense…’).

In the fourteenth century John Wyclif, the religious reformer, had this to say about trade practices of craftsmen:

Also men of sutel craft, as fre masons and othere,… conspiren togidere that no man of here craft schal take lesse on a day that thei setten, though he schulde bi good conscience take much lesse, and that noon of hem schal make sade trewe work to lette othere mennus wynnying of the craft, and that non of hem schal do ought but only hewe stone, though he myght profit his maistir twenty pound bi o daies werk bi leggyng on a wal withouten harm or penying to himself.

Arnold , Thomas , ed., Select English Works of John Wyclif , 3 vols. ( Oxford , 1869 – 1871 ) iii: 333 Google Scholar . See also 3 Hen. 6, c. 1 (1424) (outlawing ‘congregations and confederacies’ of masons).

5. Trade Union Act, 34 and 35 Viet., c. 31, §23 (1871) (definition of ‘trade union') 39 and 40 Vict., c. 22, §16 (1876) (amending §23). See also infra note 291.

7. 39 and 40 Geo. 3, c. 106 (1800).

8. Webb , Sidney and , Beatrice , History of Trade Unionism ( London , rev. ed., 1920 ) 64, 72 Google Scholar .

9. J. L. , and Hammond , Barbara , The Town Labourer, 1760-1832: The New Civilization ( London , 1917 ) 113 Google Scholar .

10. M. Dorothy George, supra note 4 at 226-227.

11. George , M. Dorothy , ‘ The Combination Laws ’, Economic History Review vi (1st ser. 1935 – 1936 ) 172 Google Scholar . For a critical assessment of George's historical method see Orth , John V. , ‘M. Dorothy George and the Combination Laws Reconsidered’, in Hay , Douglas and Snyder , Francis , eds., Labour, Law and Crime in Historical Perspective ( London , forthcoming)Google Scholar .

12. Holdsworth , Sir William , ‘ Industrial Combinations and the Law in the Eighteenth Century ’, 18 Minnesota Law Review 369, 387 ( 1934 )Google Scholar . The same judgment is repeated verbatim in Holdsworth's History of English Law , 17 vols. ( London , 1903 – 1972 )xi: 498 Google Scholar .

13. Thompson , E. P. , The Making of the English Working Class ( New York , 1963 ) 505 Google Scholar .

14. Musson , A. E. , British Trade Unions, 1800-1875 ( London , 1972 ) 22 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

15. Dobson , C. R. , Masters and Journeymen: A Prehistory of Industrial Relations, 1717-1800 ( London , 1980 ) 151 Google Scholar .

18. See Wallas , Graham , The Life of Francis Place, 1771-1854 ( New York , rev. ed. , 1918 ) 197 – 240 Google Scholar Finer , S.E. , ‘The Transmission of Benthamite Ideas, 1820-50’, in Sutherland , Gillian , ed., Studies in the Growth of Nineteenth-Century Government ( Totowa, N.J. , 1972 ) 11 – 32 Google Scholar Rowe , D.J. , ‘ Francis Place and the Historian ’, Historical Journal xvi ( 1973 ) 45 – 63 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

19. 5 Geo. 4, c. 95 (1824) 6 Geo. 4, c. 129 (1825). See Orth , John V. , ‘ The British Trade Union Acts of 1824 and 1825: Dicey and the Relation Between Law and Opinion ’, 5 Anglo-American Law Review 131–52 ( 1976 )Google Scholar .

20. Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine xviii ( 1825 ) 20 Google Scholar .

21. Statutes of Labourers, 23 Edw. 3 (1349), 25 Edw. 3, st. 1 (1350). See Putnam , Bertha H. , The Enforcement of the Statutes of Labourers, 1349-59 ( New York , 1908 )Google Scholar Clark , Elaine , ‘ Medieval Labor Law and English Local Courts ’, 27 American Journal of Legal History 330–53 ( 1983 )Google Scholar .

22. 5 Eliz., c. 4 (1563). See Bindoff , S.T. , ‘The Making of the Statute of Artificers’, in Bindoff , S.T. , Hurstfield , J. , Williams , C.H. , eds., Elizabethan Government and Society: Essays Presented to Sir John Neale ( London , 1961 ) 56 – 94 Google Scholar Woodward , Donald , ‘ The Background to the Statute of Artificers: The Genesis of Labour Policy, 1558-1563 ’, Economic History Review xxxiii ( 1980 ) 17 Google Scholar .

The Statute of Artificers was amended by Jac. 1, c. 6 (1604), 7 Jac. 1, c. 3 (1609), and 16 Car. 1, c. 4 (1640).

23. See Minchinton , W.E. , ed., Wage Regulation in Pre-lndustrial England ( New York , 1972 ) 9 – 36 Google Scholar , 206-35. The wage clauses of the Statute of Artificers were repealed in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, 53 Geo. 3, c. 40 (1813).

24. 7 Geo. 1, st. 1, c. 13 (1721) 8 Geo. 3, c. 17(1768) 13 Geo. 3, c. 68 (1773) 32 Geo. 3, c. 44 (1792).

25. For citations see infra notes 31-34.

26. 5 Geo. 4, c. 95, § 1 (1824) 6 Geo. 4, c. 129, § 2 (1825).

27. Correlative to the statutes against the combinations of labor, those against combinations of employers were defined as those ‘relative…to combinations to lower the rate of wages, or to increase or alter the hours or duration of the time of working, or to increase the quantity of work, or to regulate or controul the mode of carrying on any manufacture, trade, or business, or the management thereof’. 5 Geo. 4, c. 95, § 1 (1824) 6 Geo. 4, c. 129, § 2 (1825).

The definition of combination implied in the 1824-25 acts remained in use into the twentieth century. In 1904 A.V. Dicey observed:

The combination law, as the expression is used… generally by English judges and lawyers, means the body of legal rules or principles which from time to time regulate the right of workmen on the one side to combine among themselves for the purpose of determining by agreement the terms on which, and especially the rate of wages at which, they will work, or, in other words, sell their labour and the right of masters, on the other side, to combine among themselves for the purpose of determining by agreement the terms on which, and especially the rate of wages at which, they will engage workmen, or, in other words, purchase labour.

‘ The Combination Laws as Illustrating the Relation Between Law and Opinion in England during the Nineteenth Century ’, 17 Harvard Law Review 511 ( 1904 )Google Scholar . The ‘combination laws’ of the title seem to be the succeeding bodies of legal rules or principles governing combinations at various times during the nineteenth century.

28. 5 Geo. 4, c. 95, § 1 (1824) 6 Geo. 4, c. 129, § 2 (1825). One of the eighteenth-century acts repealed by name in 1824-25 was not a combination act at all: it provided for wage regulation in weaving, as well as strengthening the law against the truck system, 29 Geo. 2, c. 33 (1756). The wage regulation provisions had already been repealed, 30 Geo. 2, c. 12 (1757). See text at infra notes 106-23.

29. 22 Vict., c. 34 (1859). See Orth , John V. , ‘ English Law and Striking Workmen: The Molestation of Workmen Act, 1859 ’, 2 Journal of Legal History 238 –57 ( 1981 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar , and ‘The Law of Strikes, 1847-71’, in Guy , J.A. and Beal , H.G. , eds., Law and Social Change in British History ( London , 1984 ) 126 –44Google Scholar .

30. 34 and 35 Vict., c. 31 (1871). For an overview of nineteenth-century developments see Orth , John V. , ‘The Legal Status of English Trade Unions, 1799-1871’, in Harding , Alan , ed., Law-Making and Law-Makers in British History ( London , 1980 ) 195 – 207 Google Scholar .

31. For citations see Table and infra notes 35, 39-41, and 45.

32. Ten Irish combination acts of the eighteenth century repealed by name in 1824-25 are listed in an Appendix. The remaining three, earlier and later, are: 33 Hen. 8, st. 1, c. 9(1542) 43 Geo. 3, c. 86 (1803) 47 Geo. 3, st. 1, c. 43 (1807). See Park , Patrick , ‘ The Combination Acts in Ireland, 1727-1825 ’, 14 Irish Jurist 340 (new ser., 1979 )Google Scholar .

33. 5 Parl. Jac. 1, c. 78 (1426) 5 Parl. Jac. 1, c. 79 (1426) 5 Parl. Jac. 1, c. 80 (1426) 7 Parl. Jac. 1, c. 102 (1427) 5 Parl. Mar., c. 23 (1551) 7 Parl. Jac. 6, c. 121 (1581) 39 Geo. 3, c. 56 (1799). See Gray , J.L. , ‘ The Law of Combination in Scotland ’, Economica viii (1st ser. 1928 ) 332 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

34. 57 Geo. 3, c. 122 (1817) (extending 12 Geo. 1, c. 34 and 22 Geo. 2, c. 27).

36. See Winfield , Percy Henry , The History of Conspiracy and Abuse of Legal Procedure ( Cambridge , 1921 ) 1 – 2 Google Scholar .

37. Plucknett , T.F.T. , The Legislation of Edward I ( London , 1949 ) 157 Google Scholar .

38. 5 Geo. 4, c. 95, §1 (1824) 6 Geo. 4, c. 129, § 2 (1825).

40. 2 and 3 Edw. 6, c. 15 (1548).

41. 13 and 14 Car. 2, c. 15 (1662).

42. 5 Geo. 4, c. 95, §1 (1824) 6 Geo. 4, c. 129, §2 (1825).

43. 13 and 14 Car. 2, c. 15, §10.

44. See Table: English Combination Acts of the Eighteenth Century.

45. 29 Geo. 2, c. 33 (1756) (repealed in part by 30 Geo. 2, c. 12 (1757)). See supra note 28.

46. For the benefit of his pets Dr. John Doolittle supplied the following definition: ‘A strike … is when people stop doing their own particular work in order to get somebody else to give them what they want’. Lofting , Hugh , Doctor Doolittle's Post Office ( Philadelphia , 1923 ) 168 Google Scholar .

47. See C.R. Dobson, supra note 15 at 61-62 Galton , Frank W. , ed., Select Documents Illustrating the History of Trade Unionism: I. The Tailoring Trade ( London , 1896 ) xiii –xxviGoogle Scholar and 1-22.

48. 7 Geo. 1, St. 1, c. 13 (1721).

49. R. v. Journeymen-Taylors of Cambridge, 8 Mod. 10, 88 Eng. Rep. 9 (K.B. 1721).

50. 7 Geo. 1, st. 1, c. 13, §1. The ‘weekly bills of mortality’, dating from the great plague in London in the seventeenth century, were records of burials kept by the Company of Parish Clerks. The area covered represented greater London at the time. See George , M. Dorothy , London Life in the Eighteenth Century ( New York , 1925 ) 21 Google Scholar .

52. Ibid, (imprisonment, at JPs'discretion, either in house of correction at hard labor or in common jail).

53. Ibid. §6 (imprisonment in house of correction at hard labor). This section was expressly saved from repeal in 1824-25. 5 Geo. 4, c. 95, §1 (1824) 6 Geo. 4, c. 129, §2(1825).

58. 5 Eliz., c. 4, §13 (1563). This dualism was unchanged a century later. See White , George and Henson , Gravener , A Few Remarks on the State of the Laws, at Present in Existence, for Regulating Masters and Work-People ( 1823 ) 51 , 53Google Scholar , reprinted in Carpenter , Kenneth E. , ed., British Labour Struggles: Contemporary Pamphlets, 1727-1850 , 32 vols. ( New York , 1975 ) vii Google Scholar : not separately paginated.


April 1721

Sir Robert Walpole becomes the first prime minister

In April 1721, Sir Robert Walpole became first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer, in the wake of the South Sea Bubble financial crash of 1720. He confirmed the Whig party's allegiance to the Hanoverian monarchy. He never held the actual title of 'prime minister', but was given the powers that came to be associated with the office. George I also gave him 10 Downing Street, still the official residence of the prime minister.

Poaching becomes a capital offence

Poaching disturbances in Windsor Forest and Park led to clashes between 'blacks' (gangs of bandits and poachers who blackened their faces) hoping to maintain common rights and wardens and gamekeepers. The government issued the Black Act to handle the situation. This made various poaching misdemeanours into capital crimes.


Voting Rights Act (1965)

This act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.

This “act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution” was signed into law 95 years after the amendment was ratified. In those years, African Americans in the South faced tremendous obstacles to voting, including poll taxes, literacy tests, and other bureaucratic restrictions to deny them the right to vote. They also risked harassment, intimidation, economic reprisals, and physical violence when they tried to register or vote. As a result, very few African Americans were registered voters, and they had very little, if any, political power, either locally or nationally.

In 1964, numerous demonstrations were held, and the considerable violence that erupted brought renewed attention to the issue of voting rights. The murder of voting-rights activists in Mississippi and the attack by state troopers on peaceful marchers in Selma, AL, gained national attention and persuaded President Johnson and Congress to initiate meaningful and effective national voting rights legislation. The combination of public revulsion to the violence and Johnson's political skills stimulated Congress to pass the voting rights bill on August 5, 1965.

The legislation, which President Johnson signed into law the next day, outlawed literacy tests and provided for the appointment of Federal examiners (with the power to register qualified citizens to vote) in those jurisdictions that were "covered" according to a formula provided in the statute. In addition, Section 5 of the act required covered jurisdictions to obtain "preclearance" from either the District Court for the District of Columbia or the U.S. Attorney General for any new voting practices and procedures. Section 2, which closely followed the language of the 15th amendment, applied a nationwide prohibition of the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of race or color. The use of poll taxes in national elections had been abolished by the 24th amendment (1964) to the Constitution the Voting Rights Act directed the Attorney General to challenge the use of poll taxes in state and local elections. In Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966), the Supreme Court held Virginia's poll tax to be unconstitutional under the 14th amendment.

Because the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the most significant statutory change in the relationship between the Federal and state governments in the area of voting since the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, it was immediately challenged in the courts. Between 1965 and 1969, the Supreme Court issued several key decisions upholding the constitutionality of Section 5 and affirming the broad range of voting practices for which preclearance was required. [See South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 327-28 (1966) and Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544 (1969)]

The law had an immediate impact. By the end of 1965, a quarter of a million new black voters had been registered, one-third by Federal examiners. By the end of 1966, only 4 out of the 13 southern states had fewer than 50 percent of African Americans registered to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was readopted and strengthened in 1970, 1975, and 1982.


Southern Branch Mints

In the early 1800s, America experienced its first two gold rushes: first in North Carolina and then in Georgia. Demand on the Philadelphia Mint to melt, refine, and produce coins from this gold pushed the Mint to its limits. In 1835, Congress passed legislation to establish three new branch Mints located in Charlotte, NC Dahlonega, GA and New Orleans, LA. Charlotte and Dahlonega concentrated on processing the miners’ gold into coins, while New Orleans minted both gold and silver coins to keep up with a growing America.

In 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War, the Confederacy gained control of these three facilities, sporadically producing Confederate coinage before converting all of them to assay offices. The U.S. regained possession of the facilities in 1862. Dahlonega never reopened, but Charlotte and New Orleans opened several years later before Charlotte closed in 1919 and New Orleans in 1942.


The Antitrust Laws

Congress passed the first antitrust law, the Sherman Act, in 1890 as a "comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade." In 1914, Congress passed two additional antitrust laws: the Federal Trade Commission Act, which created the FTC, and the Clayton Act. With some revisions, these are the three core federal antitrust laws still in effect today.

The antitrust laws proscribe unlawful mergers and business practices in general terms, leaving courts to decide which ones are illegal based on the facts of each case. Courts have applied the antitrust laws to changing markets, from a time of horse and buggies to the present digital age. Yet for over 100 years, the antitrust laws have had the same basic objective: to protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently, keep prices down, and keep quality up.

Here is an overview of the three core federal antitrust laws.

The Sherman Act outlaws "every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade," and any "monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize." Long ago, the Supreme Court decided that the Sherman Act does not prohibit every restraint of trade, only those that are unreasonable. For instance, in some sense, an agreement between two individuals to form a partnership restrains trade, but may not do so unreasonably, and thus may be lawful under the antitrust laws. On the other hand, certain acts are considered so harmful to competition that they are almost always illegal. These include plain arrangements among competing individuals or businesses to fix prices, divide markets, or rig bids. These acts are "per se" violations of the Sherman Act in other words, no defense or justification is allowed.

The penalties for violating the Sherman Act can be severe. Although most enforcement actions are civil, the Sherman Act is also a criminal law, and individuals and businesses that violate it may be prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Criminal prosecutions are typically limited to intentional and clear violations such as when competitors fix prices or rig bids. The Sherman Act imposes criminal penalties of up to $100 million for a corporation and $1 million for an individual, along with up to 10 years in prison. Under federal law, the maximum fine may be increased to twice the amount the conspirators gained from the illegal acts or twice the money lost by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is over $100 million.

The Federal Trade Commission Act bans "unfair methods of competition" and "unfair or deceptive acts or practices." The Supreme Court has said that all violations of the Sherman Act also violate the FTC Act. Thus, although the FTC does not technically enforce the Sherman Act, it can bring cases under the FTC Act against the same kinds of activities that violate the Sherman Act. The FTC Act also reaches other practices that harm competition, but that may not fit neatly into categories of conduct formally prohibited by the Sherman Act. Only the FTC brings cases under the FTC Act.

The Clayton Act addresses specific practices that the Sherman Act does not clearly prohibit, such as mergers and interlocking directorates (that is, the same person making business decisions for competing companies). Section 7 of the Clayton Act prohibits mergers and acquisitions where the effect "may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly." As amended by the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936, the Clayton Act also bans certain discriminatory prices, services, and allowances in dealings between merchants. The Clayton Act was amended again in 1976 by the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act to require companies planning large mergers or acquisitions to notify the government of their plans in advance. The Clayton Act also authorizes private parties to sue for triple damages when they have been harmed by conduct that violates either the Sherman or Clayton Act and to obtain a court order prohibiting the anticompetitive practice in the future.

In addition to these federal statutes, most states have antitrust laws that are enforced by state attorneys general or private plaintiffs. Many of these statutes are based on the federal antitrust laws.


The Dover Combination

The “Combination of the People of Dover to Establish a Form of Government” was entered into in 1640. The original was in existence upon the Town Records about 1665, when it was quoted by Hubbard, but it could not be found when Dr. Belknap wrote his History. A copy made by Governor Cranfield in 1682 has since been found in the Public Record Office in London of which the following is a transcript:

Whereas sundry Mischeifes and inconveniences have befaln us, and more and greater may in regard of want of Civill Government, his Gratious Matie haveing hitherto setled no Order for us to our Knowledge:

Wee whose names are underwritten being Inhabitants upon the River Piscataquack have voluntarily agreed to combine our Selves into a Body Politique that wee may the more comfortably enjoy the benefit of his Maties Lawes. And do hereby actually ingage our Selves to Submit to his Royal Maties Lawes together with all such Orders as shalbee concluded by a Major part of the Freemen of our Society , in case they bee not repugnant to the Lawes of England and administred in the behalfe of his Majesty.

And this wee have Mutually promised and concluded to do and so to continue till his Excellent Matie shall give other Order concerning us.

In Witness wee have hereto Set our hands the two & twentieth day of October in the Sixteenth yeare of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord Charles by the grace of God King of Great Brittain France & Ireland Defender of the Faith &c Annoq Domi: 1640.

John Follett Samuel Haines Robert Nanney

John Underhill William Jones Peter Garland

Philip Swaddow William Jones Richard Pinckhame

Steven Teddar Bartholmew Hunt John Upgroufe

William Bowden Thomas Canning John Wastill

John Phillips John Heard Tho: Dunstar

John Hall Fran: Champernoon Abel Camond

Hansed Knowles Henry Beck Edward Colcord

Robert Huggins Henry Lahorn Thom. Larkin

Edward Starr Richard Waldern James Nute

William Waldern Anthony Emery William Storer

Richard Laham William Furber William Pomfret

Tho: Layton John Crosse Tho: Roberts

George Webb Bartholmew Smith James Rawlins

This is a True Copy compared with ye Originall by me

The Combination for Government by ye people at Pascataq.

Some of the names were no doubt copied inaccurately for Governor Cranfield. Phillip Swaddow is Swadden on the protest of 1641. Abel Camond is conjectured to be the Camock named Abel. Steven Teddar is doubtless the Stephen Kidder of Berwick in 1632, if Belknap gives the name right. Thomas Canning was, later Cannie, but Canning was doubtless the original form. Thomas Dunstar is sometimes given as Durstin. Edward Starr was doubtless the Edward Starbuck of that period. The name sometimes given as Robert Varney is clearly Robert Nanney, but may have become Varney.

This combination was entered into from the fact that John Underhill had become a strong advocate for the union of the plantation with Massachusetts, as related by Belknap, while pretending to be hostile to that government from which he had been banished. This duplicity produced the utmost confusion in the colony. Underhill attempted to “rend this combination,” and contrary to his oath and fidelity went from house to house, and for his own ends by flattering and threatening, got some hands to a note of their willingness to submit themselves to the government of Massachusetts. This led to the violent proceedings of both parties as related by Belknap, and to the decree banishing Underhill from the colony.

From Notable Events in the History of Dover, N. H. by George Wadleigh, c. 1913.

This historical essay is provided free to all readers as an educational service. It may not be reproduced on any website, list, bulletin board, or in print without the permission of the Dover Public Library. Links to the Dover Public Library homepage or a specific article's URL are permissible.


80 Years of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

In the early 20th century, Americans were inundated with ineffective and dangerous drugs, and adulterated and deceptively packaged foods. Compounding the problem, consumers had no way of knowing what was actually in the products they bought. The passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act marked a monumental shift in the use of government powers to enhance consumer protection by requiring that foods and drugs bear truthful labeling statements and meet certain standards for purity and strength. While the 1906 law laid the cornerstone for the modern FDA, as time went on it became clear that it had major shortcomings, which limited the agency's ability to protect consumers. The law offered no way to remove inherently dangerous drugs from the market and set such a high burden of proof for misbranding, i.e., intent to defraud, that the agency was rarely able to take action against a company for fraudulent products. In addition, the law provided no authority over cosmetics, medical devices, or advertising, and imposed no standards for foods.

To help make the public aware of the 1906 law’s limitations, the FDA’s Chief Education Officer, Ruth deForest Lamb, and Chief Inspector, George Larrick, created an influential traveling exhibit in 1933 to highlight about 100 dangerous, deceptive, or worthless products that the FDA lacked authority to remove from the market. The exhibition was so shocking it was dubbed the "American Chamber of Horrors" by a reporter who accompanied First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to view the exhibit. The name stuck. Lamb also adapted the exhibit into a 1936 book in which she explained that "All of these tragedies … have happened, not because Government officials are incompetent or callous, but because they have no real power to prevent them."

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

This year marks the eightieth anniversary of President Roosevelt’s signing of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), which closed many of the legal loopholes highlighted in the American Chamber of Horrors and forever altered the landscape of consumer protection in America. For the first time, the FDA had authority to regulate medical devices and cosmetics, and to establish standards for foods. Drugs and devices were required to provide adequate directions for use falsely labeled uses were misbranded and there was no longer a need to establish intent to defraud to prove misbranding. In addition, it became illegal to market drugs or devices that inherently endangered health, and all new drugs had to be proven safe for their labeled use before they could be marketed. Today, this important law still looms large in guiding the FDA’s mission.

Chamber of Horrors Photo Gallery

To download pictures of these and other products included in the historic Chamber of Horrors exhibit, visit the American Chamber of Horrors album on FDA’s Flickr photostream.

Banbar
Banbar, a worthless concoction that claimed to treat diabetes, was offered as an alternative to the only useful drug for that disease, insulin. FDA provided evidence in court of Banbar’s lack of effect and disproved the manufacturer’s evidence of its value in the disease. But the government still lost this case, having failed to show the manufacturer intended to defraud the consumer.

Bowman’s Abortion Remedy
Bowman’s Abortion Remedy promised to treat Contagious Abortion (aka, brucellosis) in cattle. This highly contagious disease impedes breeding and milk production. Before an effective vaccine was developed, the only means of preventing its spread in a herd was to segregate or euthanize infected animals. If a desperate farmer used a worthless product like Bowman’s, it allowed the disease to languish untreated and infect more animals. When FDA won a seizure action against Bowman’s, the manufacturer simply moved its therapeutic claims from the label to its advertising.

Bred-Spred
Bred-Spred was a line of “jellies” in beautiful colors and many flavors, packaged in glass jars. But, it was not a traditional jam or jelly, as defined by the industry standard of 50% fruit/juice. Instead, it had no fruit or juice at all. Just artificial colors, artificial flavors, pectin, with a few hayseeds thrown in to simulate strawberry seeds. Many state governments and the federal government worked in concert to get the product off of the market because it, and products like it, threatened the entire jam and jelly industry.

Crazy Water Crystals
Crazy Water Crystals, advertised widely on the radio, allegedly derived from health-giving Crazy Mineral Water found in Texas. FDA seized the latter multiple times in the 1910s and 1920s for adulteration and misbranding, in part for claims to treat Bright’s disease, rheumatism, liver disorders, etc. The Crystals emerged by the early 1930s, but without the labeled therapeutic claims, which were transferred to ads.

Dinitrophenol
Based on preliminary results that the industrial chemical, dinitrophenol, could rapidly accelerate the metabolism and produce weight loss, many preparations became widely available in the early 1930s. Even though dinitrophenol caused fatal blood disorders, cataracts, and other serious side effects, it was considered a cosmetic rather than a drug, and thus beyond the reach of the law.

Dr. Hess’s Poultry Tablets and Lee’s Gizzard Capsules
Dr. Hess’s Poultry Tablets and Lee’s Gizzard Capsules were among the many “vermifuge” treatments for chicken worms popular in the early 20th century. The products promised to cure hens of all intestinal worms – even though there were only effective remedies for roundworms available at the time. Because these fraudulent products often contained nicotine and kamala they could disrupt egg production cycles for several months.

Egg Noodles
Egg Noodles have slightly more nutritive value than other marketed dried pastas and were slightly more expensive. An enterprising manufacturer tried to convince consumers that his pasta was actually egg noodles by packaging them in yellow cellophane to give them a yellow tinge that would have let a consumer distinguish between egg noodles and pasta.

Flavoring Extracts
Flavoring extracts were among the more expensive items in the grocery store. Consumers would be used to buying them in standard bottles and this would appear to be one that held 2 oz. of liquid. But with the label removed, it was clear that the sides were thickened so that the bottle only held a single oz. of fluid extract, making it one of the most egregious food packaging frauds.

Jad Salts
Jad Salts, which combined several chemicals into a purge and diuretic, was seized by FDA in the early 1920s for claims to cure rheumatism, dizziness, joint pains, and other problems. However, Jad’s maker joined the ranks of “reducing racketeers” by the early 1930s when Jad was relabeled to treat obesity, yet another spurious if not unsafe product beyond the reach of the law.

Koremlu
Koremlu was presented as a revolutionary breakthrough in eliminating unwanted body hair when it hit the market in the Spring of 1930. Within a year over 120,000 jars were sold! Its depilatory agent was thallium acetate – a common rodenticide that can cause neuromuscular damage, respiratory problems, blindness and permanent hairloss. One 26-year-old woman reportedly lost her teeth, eyesight, ability to walk and her job due to Koremlu.

Lash Lure
Lash Lure was an aniline (coal tar-based) eyelash and eye brow dye that promised consumers more lasting beauty effects than mascara or eyebrow pencil. However, in reality, the toxic dye was highly irritating and caused eyebrow and eyelash loss, as well as vision impairment and even blindness. Like many cosmetics of the time, it was not tested for safety and did not disclose ingredients, so consumers had no way of knowing the real danger it posed to their health.

Lead Trinkets and Coins
During the Depression, lead “trinkets” and coins were embedded in children’s candies. Dr. Chevalier Jackson, a pioneer in the field of laryngology, identified the growing number of choking deaths among children and launched an awareness campaign. Such additions were ruled legal under the law.

Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound
Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was one of the most famous of the female tonics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. FDA took action against false claims on the label of the product in 1915, but the company just revived them for radio listeners. The Pinkham proprietors were one of the companies that fought hardest against giving FDA the authority to regulate advertising in the new law.

Marmola
Marmola was an obesity treatment introduced in 1907, and like many it relied on dried thyroid. Heavily advertised, including on the radio, consumers never heard that it could produce classic symptoms of hyperthyroidism, including rapid heart rate and insomnia. However, since obesity at this time was considered more a cosmetic than a medical problem, Marmola remained on the market.

Nuxated Iron
Nuxated Iron, the brainchild of E. Virgil Neal, a former hypnotist with a conviction for mail fraud and a profitable French cosmetics company, promised to invigorate, rejuvenate, and enhance athletic performance. Neal used cutting-edge marketing tactics, including paid celebrity testimonials to hawks these tablets, which consisted of iron and nux vomica, a derivative of the potentially lethal strychnine plant. At least one young boy died from consuming nearly an entire bottle of Nuxated Iron.

Othine
Othine promised to remove brown spots and lighten skin, to help women achieve the pale, flawless skin that was upheld as a beauty standard in the 1930s. Yet, to produce these results, Othine relied on the active ingredient mercury, whose toxic properties were well-known by that time. In their quest for beauty, consumers unwittingly risked bone deterioration, tooth loss, neurological, pulmonary and renal damage, as well as cognitive and sensory impairment, and even death.

Pabst’s Okay Specific
Pabst’s Okay Specific, a 60 proof elixir, boldly proclaimed to “cure positively and without fail… when all other medications have failed” gonorrhea and gleet discharge. Pabst’s promotional materials, such as this matchbox cover, coyly skirted social taboos about sexually transmitted diseases that likely increased consumers’ attraction to self-medicate rather than visit a physician. But because it was therapeutically inert, their conditions likely festered or worsened. From 1917-1934 FDA took action against Pabst’s for misbranding 23 times!

Peralga
Peralga, marketed as a weight-loss remedy, was one of many such products that contained amidopyrine and barbiturates. In certain individuals (typically women), the combination of these drugs could cause agranulocytosis, a dangerous loss of white blood cells, which severely limited their ability to fight off infection and often led to death.

Quack Devices
Quack Devices became increasingly popular in the decades after the First World War thanks to new technological capabilities and marketing media – especially, the radio. Advertisements falsely promised consumers an easy cure for virtually any complaint imaginable, from cancer to “mouth breathing,” but because the Pure Food and Drugs Act did not apply to devices, the FDA could not regulate them. By the early 30s, the agency formalized a collaborative office with the U.S. Postal Service to prosecute quack devices peddlers for mail fraud.

Radithor
Radithor claimed to treat impotence and dozens of other diseases. It made headlines following news of the horrifying death from radium poisoning of Eben Byers, a prominent businessman and athlete who consumed Radithor for years, and many others used the treatment. Even though Radithor was extremely dangerous, it was accurately labeled as a “radioactive water” and thus legal under the 1906 Act.

Sleepy Salts
Sleepy Salts was one of many quack “reducing aids” that was merely a powerful laxative. It promised to help consumers meet the demands of 20th century life and to remain forever young, by promoting “clearness of mind and swift graceful body.” FDA won a seizure action against the product because promotional materials shipped with the product made unverifiable therapeutic claims, including that it could treat rheumatism, neuritis, arthritis and renal problems.

Tanlac
Tanlac, a 36 proof mixture of wine, glycerin and bitter herbs, was marketed as a “system purifier,” laxative and treatment for catarrh, a common complaint targeted by patent medicines that was an elaborate euphemism for mucous. The American Medical Association described Tanlac as a “sky-rocket in the pyrotechnics of fakery,” that relied on extensive advertising and false testimonials to dupe consumers.

Vapo-Cresolene
Vapo-Cresolene, marketed in various forms since the late 19th century, vaporized a coal-tar by-product in the included apparatus to allegedly treat a host of diseases through inhalation, including diphtheria and influenza. Though the FDA successfully moved against this product under the 1906 Act, the manufacturer transferred the therapeutic claims from the label to Vapo-Cresolene’s advertising.

Veneered Chicken
Was a deceptive packaging scheme that was typical of the time. The more expensive white mean was placed in this jar in a thin outside layer that disguised the fact that most of the contents included dark meat.


Watch the video: ACT Math - Permutations and Combinations