Saturday, November 25, 2006

The most important fact in my country's history: England

In England we have a tradition of trade unionism. Almost every trade and industry in has a union to protect its workers's interests.

It wasn't always so. Until a law -- the Reform Act -- was made in 1832, unions were illegal.

At the time, farm labourers were living in poverty. In the late 1700s, land use changed. Before, the countryside had been a patchwork of small fields worked by cottagers and common ground on which anyone could graze their pigs, a cow or a few sheep. But large landowners started to enclose huge areas for their own, more profitable use. This caused great hardship among people living in the countryside.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were six farm labourers who in 1832 decided that they would set up a trade union to give the labourers of Tolpuddle more power against the landowners. But the landowners fought back with a trumped-up charge against the six, and the martyrs were subjected to a rigged trial and sent to Australia.

Five of them were freed in 1836, and the last the next year. They became popular heroes, and the strong feelings about their troubles encouraged the trade union movement. Tolpuddle continues to be a centre for trade unionism, with an annual festival and museum.

For more information visit The Martyrs Story or this Wikipedia article.

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