Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Common Labour
Workers and the Digging of North American Canals 1780–1860


  • Date Published: March 2009
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521102650

$ 39.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:

Looking for an evaluation copy?

This title is not currently available for evaluation. However, if you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an evaluation copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • This study of canal construction workers between 1780 and 1860 challenges labour history's focus on skilled craftsmen and the model of working-class culture it generated. Canallers, part of the mass of unskilled labour thrown up by industrial capitalism, had an experience that differed in many ways from artisans. Once on the labour market, they were wholly alienated, more fully exploited, worse off economically and socially fragmented. Their struggle as members of a class pivoted on material conditions not on skill and shop-floor control. Canal construction played a significant role in the rise of industrial capitalism by opening new markets, providing an army of workers and initiating the state–capital ties so important in later years. Increasingly dominated by Irish immigrants the workforce lived in shanty towns at the work site or in nearby cities, the setting for much vice and violence. These were not the vibrant working-class communities of later labour history and the situation deteriorated in the late 1830s as labour surplus caused massive unemployment and depressed wages. The history of canal workers traces another strand of the labour story, one where the absence of skills bred powerlessness that made common labour's engagement with capital markedly unequal.

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521102650
    • length: 328 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • contains: 1 b/w illus. 19 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Early canals 1780–1812
    2. 'As low as labour and capital can afford': the contracting system 1817–1840
    3. 'Human labour, physical and intelligent'
    4. Payment 'fit for labouring people'
    5. 'The greatest quantity of labour'
    6. 'Canawlers and citizens'
    7. 'Guerilla war': labour conflict in the 1830s
    8. 'This new order of things': the 1840s–1850s

  • Author

    Peter Way, University of Sussex

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.