A History of the Liverpool Waterfront 1850-1890: The Struggle for Organisation

A History of the Liverpool Waterfront 1850-1890: The Struggle for Organisation

Product no.: 978-1-78155-061-8
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A History of the Liverpool Waterfront 1850-1890: The Struggle for Organisation is a comprehensive portrait of labour relations at the port of Liverpool in the second half of the nineteenth century. After a short introductory background to nascent labour organisations from earlier times, it details the history of dockland labour and the persistent efforts of Merseyside workers to achieve union organisation.

In the times when the waterfront was packed with a ‘forest of masts’, before steam finally ousted the wind jammer, this book documents the struggles of the workers and the changes that took place; including detailed descriptions of the increased use of mechanisation in loading and unloading goods.

Based on the experience of Liverpool workers of the marine and waterfront – a high proportion of whom were of Irish descent – this book challenges long established labour history theories of ‘New Unionism’ and the alleged inability of unskilled labouring classes to organise themselves. It breaks new ground in understanding the way in which workers organised and built self-reliance. Many of these workers united in a common cause whether temporarily, or as we see in some examples, surviving from the mid-nineteenth Century until their absorption into the modern unions in existence today.

As well as being a powerful study of labour relations, David Douglass vividly recreates the hustle and bustle of life on the docks in Victorian Liverpool, where at its height eighteen thousand men earned their living in at the dockside.


David John Douglass was born pre-war in Jarrow upon Tyne. A lifelong coalminer in Durham and South Yorkshire, and a leading member of the National Union of Mineworkers, Douglas studied at Ruskin College, Oxford. A graduate of Strathclyde University, Glasgow and Keele University Staffs, he has written extensively on the coal industry, mining communities and National Union of Mineworkers as a worker-historian. In this work, Douglas turns his attention to early dock and maritime labour in the Mersey ports, revealing for the first time the extent of their organisational dynamic and class consciousness.

Dimenions: 234 x 156 mm
Binding: paperback
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 65 b/w photographs

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