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This paper will show how protest action, specifically trade union coordinated strikes, took place to maintain or improve Yorkshire colliers' living standards amid fluctuating food costs between 1786-1801. At times of high wages and good trade, when bread was cheap, the miners at various pits in Yorkshire formed unions and struck to capitalise on the booming demand for coal to raise their own wages and to improve their standard of living. At times when wages were high, when the coal trade was good but foodstuffs expensive, the unions resurfaced and miners struck to increase wages further and to negotiate the supply of grain at discounted prices. From 1798, however, strike action was rendered ineffective by a fall in the demand for coal. The soaring wheat costs of the following year further eroded the miners' standard of living: colliers in Leeds converged on the marketplace and rioted in May 1800. However, in South Yorkshire, the miners remained quiet, insulated by the regular supply of food by paternalistic coalowners such as Earl Fitzwilliam. This paper will, therefore, build on Adrian Randall's work and demonstrate a connection between trade unionism, food riots, and paternalism in the Yorkshire coalfield that was underpinned by fluctuating living standards.


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