In `The Making of the English Working Class,'' Thompson marked the period between 1790 and 1830 for the formation of `working class'' and the development of class consciousness, `the consciousness of an identity of interests as between all these diverse groups of working...
In `The Making of the English Working Class,'' Thompson marked the period between 1790 and 1830 for the formation of `working class'' and the development of class consciousness, `the consciousness of an identity of interests as between all these diverse groups of working people and as against the interests of other classes.'' The confluence of population implosion, the Industrial Revolution and political counter revolution from 1792 - 1832 created a situation that beckoned the working people to coalesce together and adopt a collective social role to safeguard their interests.
The Industrial Revolution ushered a sea change for workers by usurping the old paternalist economy by laissez faire. The economic policies and changes in each industry coupled with the abrogation of paternalist legislations in the early 1800s united workers in common misery: `for the field laborer, the loss of his common rights, and the vestiges of village democracy; for the artisan, the loss of his craftsman''s status; for the weaver, the loss of livelihood and of independence.'' Collectively, the group felt `a sense of loss status as memories of their `golden age'' lingered''.
The horrors of the French revolution and the fear of violent revolution at home joined landowners and manufacturers to block reforms. With the advent of Paine''s `Age of Reason'' and `Rights of Men,'' gentry reformers such as Wyvill became alarmed by the linkage of `political with economic demands'' and the demands of expropriation of the landowners. With support from both the aristocracy and the middle class, the government swiftly adopted reactionary measures, such as the Two Acts, suspension of habeas corpus, Combination Act and even planting spy as agent of provocateur to extirpate agitators. Pitt transitioned from a champion of `piecemeal reform into diplomatic architect of European counter-revolution.''
Thus, reform followed a circuitous path, though it remained `a contest of the middle class and the working class.'' The reformers were generally divided among constitutionalists, like Cobbett, and Spencer''s radical revolutionary. Radicalism divided the society between `useful'' or `productive classes'' or courtiers, sinecurists, fund-holders, speculators, parasitic middlemen.'' In the face of government intransigence, such as the fruitless and expensive recourse to the Parliament between 1800 and 1812 showed, skilled men, artisans and some outworkers turned to the radical culture for reform. With each succeeding crisis, such as the Peterloo massacre, the radical''s clout accreted and gained moral consensus among the general populace, culminating to the Pentridge rising, `one of the first attempts in history to mount a wholly proletarian insurrection, without any middle-class support.'' In a wrestle for control, the Reform Acts 1832 was the middle class''s effort to thwart a revolution were it to occur.
The changing responses to the government measures shepherded the coming of class consciousness. During the early part of the French revolution, `Church and King'' mobs could be manipulated against the reformers. With the tightening of government control, a growing number of communities began to follow their own moral codes - from the transitional mobs during the food riots, the plebian jury''s refusal to convict reformers and `seditionists'' termed by the government, the centralized tactics of Luddism and to the support of and participation in trade unionism. From the experiences of passive and active resistance and cooperation, this new working class culture unified the mass to voice their demands and work toward their goals - a force that could not be suppressed.