The Keelmen of Tyneside

June 2011
4 black and white illustrations
232 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Regions and Regionalism in History
ISBN: 9781843836322
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037030, BUS023000, HIS015000

The Keelmen of Tyneside

Labour Organisation and Conflict in the North-East Coal Industry, 1600-1830

Joseph M. Fewster

out of stock

A comprehensive account of the everyday lives of the keelmen of Tyneside, and their struggles and industrial disputes.
For hundreds of years the keelmen, the "keel lads o' coaly Tyne" celebrated in the north-east folk song "The Keel Row", ferried coal down-river to the estuary and cast it aboard ships bound for London or overseas. They were "the very sinews of the coal trade" on which the prosperity of the region depended.
This book charts the history of the keelmen from the early seventeenth century to the point where technological advances made them redundant in the course of the nineteenth century. It describes how the importance of their work placed them in a strong position in industrial disputes, especially since they could shut off the coal supply to London. It examines their numerous turbulent battles with rapacious employers and unsympathetic magistrates (often themselves involved in the coal trade), their struggles against poverty and eventually against redundancy, and their attempts to gain redress in Parliament and in the law courts. The book also describes the squalid conditions in Sandgate where, as recounted in the folk song, many keelmen and their families lived with a reputation for independence and savage roughness but exhibited impressive solidarity both as an early industrial labour organisation and as a tightly-knit, mutually supportive, and highly self-reliant community.
The book will be of interest to social and economic historians, labour historians, maritime historians and all interested in the history of the North East.

JOSEPH M. FEWSTER was, until his retirement in 1997, Senior Assistant Keeper in Durham University Library.

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Table of Contents

Introduction. The Keelmen and their Masters
Early Troubles, 1633-99
The Keelmen's Charity, 1699-1712: Success, Conflict and Collapse
The Keelmen's Charity: Attempts at Revival, 1712-70
The Charity Established
Combinations and Strikes 1710-38
The 'Villainous Riot' of 1740 and its Aftermath
The Strikes of 1744 and 1750
The Appeal to Parliament
A New Threat
The Impressment of Keelmen
The Strike of 1809: The Keelmen Prevail
The Strike of 1819: A Partial Victory
'The Long Stop' of 1822: The Keelmen Defeated
The Keelmen go to Law
The Decline of the Keelmen
The Magistrates and the Keelmen
The Keelmen and Trade Unionism


A welcome contribution to the literature. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MARITIME HISTORY

[I] can only heartily recommend that you buy the book and read it from start to end. WEEKLY WORKER

[A] superb monument to a forgotten group of working people. NORTH EAST HISTORY

[L]ikely to remain, for many years to come, the definitive account of the role of the keelmen in the complex operation of getting coal from pit to ship [...] a fascinating study.which is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of the coal trade, working and living conditions in the period and the nefarious dealings of city bosses. THE LOCAL HISTORIAN

A thorough and detailed study of this hardy and resourceful workforce. NORTHERN HISTORY

A handsome volume [and] surely now the standard account of this piece of north-east history. NORMAN McCORD, Professor Emeritus of History, Newcastle University

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