Histoire des accidents et des risques industriels, France-Grande Bretagne, fin XVIIe-fin XIXe siècles
séminaire EHESS, 2012-2013
96 boulevard Raspail, salle de réunion de l’Institut d’étude de l’Islam et des sociétés du monde musulman (IISMM-EHESS), 1er étage
Les séances ont lieu de 9 h 00 à 11 h 00, et sont suivies de 11 h à 13 h par la réunion du groupe impliqué dans le projet.
- Vendredi 12 avril, 9h-11h: Mike Esbester (University of Portsmouth), ” ‘I cannot say that the pay they receive is adequate to the risk and danger they encounter’: British railway workers and safety after c.1850″
As noted in the quotation that forms the title of this paper, the 1879 memoirs of one railway worker claimed that railway workers in Britain were exposed to high levels of danger. His account featured several cases in which employees were either killed or injured on the railways, and was part of a small, but growing, public awareness in the second half of the nineteenth century that work on the railways could be extremely dangerous. This paper focuses on the debates surrounding accidents and railway work in Britain after 1850, and the negotiations between state, private companies, trade unions and workers about the most appropriate means to ensure safety at work. Noting the contrast between passenger and worker safety, the paper will discuss how railway dangers were conceptualised in public debate – and particularly, in the late nineteenth century, the ways in which the safety of the public was used as a means of securing limited improvements for workers. Touching on ideas about the economics of safety, the rhetoric of ‘responsibility’ and the construction of the ‘normal’ casualty, the paper will discuss how workers, unions, companies and the state responded to workplace accidents. This will be framed particularly around the debates about the ‘appropriate’ role for the state in nineteenth-century Britain and the ways in which the companies attempted to restrict intervention in the railway industry. It will also try to bring in discussion of the workers’ accounts of accidents, ensuring the day-to-day experiences of industrial dangers are not lost.