labour aristocracy

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Top 10–15 per cent of manual wage earners in the 19th cent., characterized by relatively high and regular earnings, membership of a trade union, and respectable life‐style. This élite of skilled artisans—engineers, cabinet‐makers, printers, cotton‐spinners—set the tone of working‐class leadership between the 1840s and the 1890s. Some historians have suggested that a labour aristocracy with a conservative ideology and a stake in the status quo helps to account for the social stability of mid‐Victorian Britain. However, the labour aristocracy maintained a distinctive working‐class ideology through its unions, and also provided the leadership in some radical reform movements.

Subjects: Sociology — British History.

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