Labour History Review

Exclusive Dealing in the Chartist Movement

Labour History Review (2009), 74, (1), 90–110.

Abstract

Chartism was a movement of consumers as well as producers. This article explores this hypothesis by considering the development and significance of exclusive dealing and consumers' co-operation, which grew out of this practice, for Chartists. First, the genealogy of the tactic is traced and the way in which exclusive dealing was initially employed by both radicals and Tories highlighted. The article then discusses forms of market exploitation — particularly adulteration, truck and tommy shops — that seriously affected working-class consumers. From the late 1830s, exclusive dealing was increasingly regarded as the best way to remedy these grievances and correct a perceived imbalance between producers and consumers. The role of Robert Lowery is assessed, a key figure in the initial, enthusiastic phase of Chartist co-operation before the debacle of the general strike in 1842. By the end of the decade, it is argued, exclusive dealing was rejected by some of the Chartist leadership as too confrontational, while the appeal of shopkeeping more narrowly defined continued to grow in working-class communities. The article ends with a consideration of the critique of Ernest Jones who, among others, condemned the uncoupling of economic from political components of the radical cause.

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Author details

Gurney, Peter