Nineteenth-Century Dock Labour in the Port of London
In response to the usual characterisation of dock labour as casual and exploited, this article suggests that throughout the nineteenth century a clearer distinction needs to be made between the standard of living of the core of permanent and ‘preferable’ labourers and the casuals and outsiders at the dock gates. Specialised workers and ‘respectable’ labourers were at peace with their employers until the strikes of 1853, attributed to the threats of piecework and mechanisation. The series of industrial disputes in the second half of the century were to some extent due to technical change and commercial pressures. The article concludes that problems perceived at the end of the century were more due to the employers’ failure to grasp decasualisation than to ‘socialist agitators’.