41 votes
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Why did piracy thrive in the late 17th and early 18th centuries?

The creation and expansion of European empires during the Age of Discovery resulted in the expansion of trade routes to new colonies and trading posts across the world. The vast areas of these trade ...
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20 votes
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What Happened to Hacker Culture After 1970?

Putting aside the danger for this to turn into "it was better in my day" rants, Hacker Culture is alive and well and thriving. It just doesn't look like it did in the 70s. First, I'm going to make a ...
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  • 52.6k
15 votes
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What were the key factors to the fall of domestic socialism in the USA?

The First World War and the Soviet Union happened. War time hysteria made labour groups and socialists, who were largely against the war, a target of vigilante attacks and political repression. To ...
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  • 95.8k
14 votes

What was the largest strike, by % of a country's population, in history?

In the aftermath of the first World War, approximately 12 million German workers (source in German) out of a population of 62 million went on a general strike to protest the Kapp Putsch. This is a ...
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  • 16k
14 votes
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Why did sailing ships so often employ Chinese cooks?

Discrimination against the Chinese was clearly a key factor, excluding them from higher paid and more desirable jobs aboard ship. Here is a quote from the article "‘I Espied a Chinaman’: Chinese ...
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  • 17.3k
13 votes

What was the largest strike, by % of a country's population, in history?

The French General Strike of May 1968 is a likely contender with around 10 million on strike out of a then population of about 51.2 million, or about 19.5% of the total population. This represented ...
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12 votes

How and why did trade unions in America become influenced by organised crime, but unions in Britain didn't?

I don't know if there is a proven definitive answer to this, but let me propose an explanation from first principles. At the time that Labour Unions were organizing in North America, and lobbying for ...
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11 votes
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How many hours a week did the Tolpuddle Martyrs work?

I did not find a specific reference to the work hours of the Tolpuddle Martyrs either. It's possible they worked radically unconventional hours, but probably it was no different than the norm at the ...
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  • 95.8k
10 votes
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What happened to UK national debt when the NHS was created?

In fact the creation of the NHS didn't have a significant influence on the national debt. This is mostly because the NHS wasn't created from scratch (with thanks to Steve Bird). There were already ...
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  • 1,006
10 votes

How would prospective members join a medieval European guild?

1) Generally he wouldn't; his parents would find someone to give him employment. Family connections were key. 2) Free labor. Apprentices worked for you at essentially no wages; there were almost no ...
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  • 30.9k
10 votes
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In historical slave societies, what jobs were left over for poor free laborers?

The phrase "left over" implies slaves doing most of the work. While seemingly intuitive, it is in actuality quite implausible. For most of history in farming based civilisations, the vast majority of ...
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  • 95.8k
9 votes

How and why did trade unions in America become influenced by organised crime, but unions in Britain didn't?

I feel that answers linking crime to ethnicity should at least try to provide some documentation relative to the ethnicity of union ranks. I would say that the factor more important was the use of ...
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  • 12.1k
9 votes

How did Asian Americans manage to become richer than an average American?

There is no good answer to this question as posed, because many Asian-American ethnicities are poorer than the U.S. general public. In fact, Asian Americans' high incomes are largely due to Indian ...
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  • 17.8k
9 votes

How much leisure time was enjoyed by English peasants in the 16th century?

The labouring man will take his rest long in the morning; a good piece of the day is spent afore he come at his work; then he must have his breakfast, though he have not earned it at his accustomed ...
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8 votes

How would prospective members join a medieval European guild?

I only know about the London guild system but his family would arrange it because it required a considerable payment to the master. Contracts were drawn up by the relevant guild then confirmed at the ...
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8 votes

How many hours did Andrew Carnegie's steel workers work per week?

It is unlikely to be possible to offer an "average" for the number of hours worked per week by Andrew Carnegie's steel workers (or anyone else's steel workers, for that matter). The primary difficulty ...
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  • 76.2k
8 votes
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History from pop culture (novels): the UK in the 1910's

I suspect that we have a conflict of assumptions and language. The Lord of the World is a work of speculative fiction. None of it is historical. @KillingTime pointed out the key to understanding ...
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  • 30.9k
7 votes

Were labor shortages ever a problem for the railroads in the Old West?

There were absolutely labor crunches while building the transcontinental railroads--these roads were stretching across a vast, unpopulated (by European Americans, that is) and harsh terrain. Labor ...
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  • 17.8k
7 votes

When have salaries been paid in kind, not cash?

As it happens, I'm getting partly paid in food today. There is a system to record how often I go to the staff canteen, and the next month that is deducted from my payslip. Of course that's only a ...
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  • 16k
7 votes

When have salaries been paid in kind, not cash?

In the US rail road workers were often paid in such a way that their earnings usually got devoted to their food and board. In todays terms it would be like getting $500 a week but having to spend $495 ...
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  • 764
7 votes

Was every man compelled to follow his father's occupation in ancient Egypt?

It was certainly customary for men in ancient Egypt to follow the profession of their fathers after coming of age, but Adam Smith was wrong to claim that men were "bound by a principle of religion" to ...
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  • 76.2k
6 votes

Was the Abolition of Slavery in the United States perceived and advertised as an effort to improve race relations or as an improvement to labour laws?

Neither. Reasons given for advocating the abolition of slavery usually were: 1) Slavery was a form of theft and totally wrong, unethical, evil and against the will of God. 2) slavery was bad for ...
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  • 2,098
6 votes
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How were native laborers on California ranchos treated?

To make the answer short not very well. Their treatment under the ranchos was pretty much the same as their treatment under the Missions. The articles mentioned they were paid in goods and alcohol, ...
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  • 6,191
6 votes
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How did Americans adopt processed and off-site butchered meat for domestic consumption in their food supply?

The answer is in the meat-packing industry and the development of a practical refrigerated boxcar, also known as the reefer. This permitted livestock ranched in the West to be slaughtered nearer the ...
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6 votes

When have salaries been paid in kind, not cash?

After the political collapse of the Soviet Union came the crash of its industrial system. As a result, for some time during the 90s many workers were paid in kind. Here's a description: Starved for ...
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5 votes
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Why was the Le Chapelier law annulled in Belgium?

The Le Chapelier Law was a French law. In 1862, there was a notorious strike by Parisian printers and book binders which garnered international attention and was followed by other strikes by other ...
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  • 37.2k
5 votes

Was American slavery economically advantageous primarily due to being able to also sell offspring?

If slavery is only profitable through the selling of slaves, there's no point in having slaves except as a social status symbol (which may be the case for some slaves in some societies, but not for ...
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  • 10.9k
5 votes

Was American slavery economically advantageous primarily due to being able to also sell offspring?

Was American slavery economically advantageous primarily due to being able to also sell offspring? No, American slavery was economically advantageous regardless of selling offsprings. If X ...
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5 votes

In historical slave societies, what jobs were left over for poor free laborers?

As a supplement to Semaphore's excellent answer dealing with ancient slavery thought I'd add one data point from US history... I remember taking a tour of New Orleans and hearing that the canals were ...
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  • 3,143
5 votes
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What is the social history of British popular opposition to Thatcher over the miner’s strike?

edit: originally this question asked specifically about modern comedians, and that's what I've tried to answer below. The UK comedy scene, once called 'alternative comedy' started as an anti-Thatcher ...
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