Strikes of '43 and '50

"Few decades of the early eighteenth century passed without a major strike on the Tyne, which invariably involved successful picketing, sometimes holding up trade on the river for weeks at a time. The seven-week strike of 1750 was perhaps the longest in this period, but somewhat shorter disturbances in 1701, 1708, 1710, 1719 and 1738 all caused grave disruption to Newcastle's coal-based economy and demonstrated the keelmen's collective strength.

"By 1750 [the keelmen] were reported to be displaying printed bills in public places setting out their grievances, indicating a development in tactics as well as the advanced' nature of these industrial disputes. It was this evidence of organization and control that was most disturbing to the authorities, partly because it threatened comfortable contemporary assumptions that all members of the lower orders were 'a sort of Unthinking people', and partly because of the authorities' relative impotence in the face of a simple, orderly refusal to work.

"The constantly-repeated claim that the keelmen were espousing Jacobitism may also be traced to this desire to translate the strikes into something that fitted into the accepted framework of the social order. In fact the Scots Presbyterian keelmen seem to have been fairly safely anti-Jacobite..., and in 1719 they achieved official recognition as 'the only well affected Mob in England.'

"There is much to support Morris's contention that the origins of nineteenth-century class society are to be found on Tyneside rather than in the Lancashire cotton industry." [1]


  1. From "A Dynamic Society: Social Relations in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 1660-1760" by Joyce Ellis. In The Transformation of English Provincial Towns 1600-1800, edited by Peter Clark, Hutchinson and Co. (Publishers) Ltd., London, 1984
Mason & Dixon Alpha Guide
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