'Jaunty individualists' or labour activists? Constermongers, trade unions, and the politics of the poor

Brodie, Marc
June 2001
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Summer2001, Vol. 66 Issue 2, p147
Academic Journal
The article focuses on costermongers and their trade union in Great Britain within the nineteenth century. The costermonger trade unions in most cases structured themselves and had governing committees similar to those of any labour organisation of the period. It is true that the battles of the costermonger unions were not against an employer but usually against local authorities and often in the courts, about where and when they could carry on their trade. The costermongers were continually being moved on by the police or council officers from where they set their informal pitches, sometimes for interfering with other traders in the area, at other times for restricting traffic flow. The costermongers were organisationally diverse and they were similarly divided in their politics. The major push of costermonger unionism, in the late 1880s and early 1890s, coincided with the growth of new unionism and significant political and industrial activity within many occupations. The solidarity the costermongers exhibited with general working-class movements and causes, as well as within their own market groupings, clearly belies the claim of the overriding importance of individualism in their lives and attitudes.


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