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Combination Acts

Combination Acts, 1799–1800. These Acts were directed against trade unions (combinations of workmen) when the government feared unrest and even revolution. Combinations were in fact already illegal under both common law and statute; the Acts were intended to simplify and speed up prosecution by summary trial. The Acts failed to crush the unions, consisting mainly of skilled artisans, but did force them to operate circumspectly or secretly. Repeal of the Acts came in 1824–5 after a campaign master-minded by Place and presented by Joseph Hume, and was followed by an immediate upsurge in trade union activity.

John F. C. Harrison

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Combination acts

Combination acts British Acts of Parliament of 1799 and 1800 making combinations (trade unions) of workers illegal. The government feared that such organizations were potentially subversive. Trade unions nevertheless multiplied after 1815, and in 1824 the acts were repealed. A later Combination Act (1825) restricted the right to strike and, as the Tolpuddle Martyrs (1834) demonstrated, trade-union organizers could still be prosecuted.

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