Labour disputes in the Paris textile industry during the Second Empire

By Anaïs Albert

Little is known about the Parisian textile industry during the Second Empire, a period that is also largely absent from the history of workers’ movements. Through an analysis of the decisions handed down by the Conseil des tissus (the industrial tribune for the textile sector) in 1858, this paper proposes to revisit the labour conflicts of this sector, in order to examine the organisation of work, the various grounds for conflict (e.g., poor workmanship, dismissals and terminations, payment, apprenticeship) and the ordinary struggles between bosses and workers. Ultimately, the industrial tribunal appears to have been a forum for an intermediary level of conflict, between peaceful labour relations and collective mobilisation. The Parisian workers made extensive use of this court, which was favourable to them, mainly to discuss their pay. The study of these labour conflicts in the 1850s places a milestone between the revolts and revolutions of the first half of the 19th century and the emergence of new forms of mobilisation at the end of the century.

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