Discussions of the working class in western societies have drawn particular attention to recent economic, technological, occupational, and social development (see, e.g., Mann 1973). These changes must, however, be analysed in a wider historical context; their impact was felt, not by ‘some nondescript undifferentiated raw material of humanity’ (Thompson 1968: 213), but by working people who had, over a century and more of history, developed particular cultural patterns, institutions, modes of industrial and political action. Thus Goldthorpe and Lock-wood (1963: 142) refer to ‘a far-reaching adaptation and development of the traditional working-class way of life’. Yet the ‘traditional working class’ has been rather less thoroughly investigated than the various groups of the ‘new working class’; too often, it seems, sociologists have been content with a ‘sociological past . . . linked to the present not by carefully observed and temporally located social interaction but by inferentially necessary connections between concepts’ (Abrams 1972: 20). In particular, it is important to realize that the accommodation of the working class to capitalist society is no recent phenomenon: ‘The constriction of revolutionary perspectives in working-class ideology ... is not simply the product of developments since 1945 but represents the working out of an historical tendency visible in the second half of the nineteenth century’ (Birnbaum 1971: 104). Equally, the inhibiting effect on working-class consciousness of structural differentiation is, as social historians are well aware, a phenomenon visible throughout the history of industrial capitalism. Indeed, from even the most cursory examination of that history, it becomes apparent that the twentieth century has, if anything, seen an increase in the homogeneity and industrial and urban concentration of the proletariat.