Chris Fisher – Custom, Work & Market Capitalism

The Forest of Dean Colliers, 1788-1888


With a new preface by Rich Daniels, chairman of Hands Off Our Forest and Forest of Dean Freeminers Association.

During the eighteenth century a community of ‘free’ miners grew up on Crown land in the Forest of Dean. Their right to live and work in this region was neither conferred by the Crown nor by private employers or landowners; it became, over the years, a customary right. During the nineteenth century the Crown began to erode customary rights existing on its land and replace it with forms of market capitalism such as those which sprang up in the private sector during this period.

This book examines how this transition was made and how the free miners responded to the encroachments of market capitalism. It provides important insights into the way in which the body of custom altered over time and into the fundamental relations of property, production and law in a society. The ways in which customs were transformed and the sorts of adaptations which had to be made in customs which survived were an index of change in the wider society.

List of Tables
About the author
1 The Old System in the Forest
2 Reifying the Custom
3 Resistance
4 The New System I: Mining and the Little Buttymen
5 The New System II: The Little Buttymen and the Union
6 Commodities: The Land
7 Commodities: The Free Miners
8 Commodities: The Commoners
An Overview

About the author
Chris Fisher originally worked as a miner in Australia before moving to Britain to study at Warwick University in 1974. After completing his MA in Comparative British and American Labour History, Fisher gained a PhD in Social History with his thesis, Free Miners and Colliers: custom, the crown and trade unionism in the Forest of Dean, 1788-1886 in 1978, which became this book. Fisher returned to Australia in 1978. In subsequent years he held teaching posts at the Universities of Wollongong, New South Wales and Canberra and research posts with the Australasian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, the Industrial Relations Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University and the the Australian Public Service. He has published a number of books and articles about labour history and industrial relations. He is now a grain and sheep farmer at Temora in western NSW.