Download Common Labour: Workers and the Digging of North American by Peter Way PDF

By Peter Way

This examine of canal development employees among 1780-1860 demanding situations exertions history's concentrate on expert craftsmen. Canalers have been unskilled staff, usually contributors of despised social teams resembling Irish immigrants and African-American slaves. They labored twelve or extra hours an afternoon in all climate, uncovered to ailments and job-related hazards, going domestic at evening to impolite shanty cities. Their harsh life bred clash that undercut employee cohesion yet promoted battles with employers over place of work matters, and the country was once more and more drawn in to implement business creation. missing the facility that ability introduced, canalers had little regulate over their operating stipulations. Their stories signify a unique strand of the exertions tale.

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Additional resources for Common Labour: Workers and the Digging of North American Canals 1780-1860

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I attempt to fill this void, yet it will be clear that this is not a comparative study in the common sense, that is, between two largely distinct entities. I do not pretend to be studying the different cultures of the United States and Canada. There are times when the predominant conservatism of British North America and the American republican tradition influenced events on canals, particularly in the area of state response to social problems and labour violence. Here, Canadian government and canal officials were more likely both to ameliorate conditions and to suppress riots and strikes by force.

The resulting flooding of the labour market led to a drop in wages and a stripping away of the customary provision of food and shelter, which, coupled with rising unemployment, made for a very desperate situation. Crystallizing class lines were reflected in an upsurge in strike activity and the repeated use of the military by the state to enforce free market principles. Canallers were approaching the world of the industrial state with all its consequences for labour just as the industry was winding down.

And the labour requirements of canal construction were unusually high for the time. Work was carried on in a multitude of small settings within the economy as a whole. Outside of the largest plantations and a very few manufactories, most industries only had five to twenty labourers per place of production. By comparison, larger canals required from five hundred to one thousand workers, and a rough estimate could be hazarded of three to four thousand workers engaged in the industry during the peak of the early phase of construction in the mid-1790s.

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