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Mondays without dread: the trade union response to byssinosis in the Lancashire cotton industry in the twentieth century

Tweedale, Geoffrey and Bowden, Sue (2003) Mondays without dread: the trade union response to byssinosis in the Lancashire cotton industry in the twentieth century. Social history of medicine, 16 (1). pp. 79-95. ISSN 1477-4666

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Abstract

Trade unions have often been criticized for their failure to address occupational health issues. This article explores their response to byssinosis—a chronic respiratory disease caused by exposure to cotton dust that was rife in the Lancashire cotton industry in the early nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Using the archives of the cardroom and spinning unions, it is demonstrated that trade union efforts to combat byssinosis began before the First World War and were sustained for over 70 years. During that period, byssinosis became a recognized medical condition and a compensatable disease, due in no small measure to the trade unions campaigning tirelessly for better dust control, compensation for all affected workers, and more medical research.

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