The Oxford Companion to British History

By John Cannon | Go to book overview

F

Fabian Society. The Society took its name from the Roman dictator Fabius, nicknamed 'Cunctator', or delayer. It was founded in January 1884 by a small group of middle- class intellectuals with the purpose of furthering 'the reconstruction of Society in accordance with the highest moral principles', but gradually. Its first pamphlet, or 'Tract', Why are the Many Poor?, made it plain that the highest principles were socialist ones. Shortly afterwards Sidney *Webb and Bernard *Shaw, its most famous members, joined. The latter penned some of its most brilliant tracts. The society's main importance thereafter was as an amazingly fecund womb of ideas for the infant and maturing *Labour parties, not all of which were predictable. In 1900, for example, it came out in support of the *British empire, on the grounds that it could be made into a gigantic welfare state, which seemed perverse to other socialists. When Labour came to power, however, the Fabians' willingness to engage with the realities around them was a definite boon. It still survives: the most senior of all Britain's socialist organizations.

BJP

Factory Acts were introduced to protect working people from employers who permitted dangerous practices and environments in workplaces. The first Acts of 1809 and 1823 failed to include effective enforcement clauses. In 1833 Lord Ashley (later earl of *Shaftesbury) introduced the first effective law. It established an inspectorate with powers to enter premises and to require evidence of compliance with restrictions on the employment of women and children. This Act applied only to large textile factories. Acts of 1844, 1847, and 1863 extended the laws to other manufactures and ineluded small workshops. Conditions in mines and quarries, brickfields, railways, shipping, alkali works, aircraft, and shops and warehouses were regulated separately. Concern about workers and the safeguarding of the general public were the subject of many pieces of legislation during the 19th and 20th cents. A coherent law relating to safety at work was not achieved until 1969 when the Health and Safety Executive was set up.

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factory system. The 'factory system' has been an important element in the accelerating processes of industrialization which have become known as the *industrial revolution. As British industrial enterprises expanded in the 18th cent., recruiting more workers and investing in expensive tools and equipment, it became important to develop a more tightly organized and disciplined form of production than the traditional method of employing workers in small workshops or their own homes -- as in the *'domestic system' which had operated satisfactorily for several hundred years, for example, in sections of the English woollen cloth industry. The solution to the problem was the construction of large manufacturing establishments, in which the entry and exit of the work-force could be closely controlled and strict conditions of discipline and time-keeping maintained. In this way employers were able to minimize the loss of raw materials and finished goods by theft, and to protect their capital equipment. They were able also to install powerful prime movers (water wheels or steam-engines) to drive all their machines from a single source.

From the employers' point of view, this factory system had such manifest advantages that it was widely adopted, especially in the textile industries, where the Lombe silk factory in Derby was a marvel of the age. It was also used by the heavy iron and steel industries, by manufacturers of pottery, glass, paper, and chemicals, and by processes in the food and drink industries, such as breweries. Indeed, the factory system became the dominant form of industrial organization throughout the 19th cent., and has remained important in the 20th cent., especially in the large complexes of the modern engineering industry. However, the introduction of electricity and road haulage has made possible a significant dispersal of industry, and the 'information revolution' of modern electronics and telecommunications has enabled an increasing number of people to work at home, so that the general trend of recent decades has been for factories to become smaller.

Architecturally, the factory system developed through several phases. Early factories were solidly built to accommodate the necessary machines and sources of power, with the minimum of embellishment. But the hazard of fire in such confined environments compelled entrepreneurs to develop forms of fire-proof construction, using little wood and depending on a solid framework of cast-iron pillars and girders. The need for natural light in some of the processes, moreover, directed attention to improved glazing, and many factories became well-built structures with ample windows and decorative flourishes such as ornate chimneys to carry the furnace flues from the boiler room. Idealistic entrepreneurs, such as Robert *Owen or Titus *Salt, saw their factories as part of a human community, and provided

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The Oxford Companion to British History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Ppreace vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Note to the Reader xii
  • A 1
  • B 71
  • C 149
  • D 273
  • E 318
  • F 363
  • G 399
  • H 445
  • I 503
  • J 523
  • K 541
  • L 553
  • M 602
  • N 666
  • O 701
  • P 717
  • Q 782
  • R 785
  • S 831
  • T 907
  • U 941
  • V 951
  • W 960
  • Y 1008
  • Z 1015
  • Subject Index 1034
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