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The Labour Unrest, 1911–14

  • Henry Pelling
Chapter

Abstract

The years 1911–14 are marked in British history not only by the deepening crisis over the question of Irish Home Rule and by the increasing violence of the militant suffragettes, but also by the period of ‘labour unrest’, which involved bitter strikes, several of them national in character and requiring intervention by Cabinet ministers. In the course of the period a new philosophy of industrial action for political ends came into prominence; and at the same time a remarkable extension of the frontiers of trade unionism took place. Contemporaries cast around for explanations of these phenomena. Sir George Askwith, the government’s chief industrial adviser, reported to the Cabinet in 1911 that the probable main causes were the rise in the cost of living, and the failure of wages to keep pace; the conspicuous display of luxury by the rich, particularly exemplified in the use they made of motor-cars; and the growth of the press and the improvement of communications, which made for greater national co-ordination of news and activity.1 Other, less well-informed observers added to this list of causes, without however producing any that seem more plausible.2

Keywords

Trade Union Real Wage Union Membership Labour Party Miner Federation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    É. Halévy, History of the English People: Epilogue, ii (1934), p. xiv.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Cole, Short History of the British Working Class Movement, iii (1927), p. 70.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Cole and Postgate, The Common People (1938), p. 460.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    K. G. J. C. Knowles, Strikes (Oxford, 1954), p. 223.Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    H. J. Fyrth and H. Collins, The Foundry Workers (Manchester, 1959), p. 134.Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    G. Edwards, From Crow-scaring to Westminster (1922), p. 182.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    Workers’ Union, A Dozen Spurs to Action (1912). Copy in British Library of Political and Economic Science.Google Scholar
  8. 2.
    Unofficial Reform Committee, S.W.M.F., The Miners’ Next Step (Tonypandy, 1912), p. 30.Google Scholar
  9. 3.
    P. S. Bagwell, The Railwaymen (1963), p. 325.Google Scholar
  10. 1.
    J. B. Jefferys, The Engineers (1945), p. 166.Google Scholar
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    R. Postgate, The Builders’ History (1923), pp. 400 ff. Postgate blames the failure partly on the indifference of the new members who joined as a result of the National Insurance Act.Google Scholar
  12. 1.
    Miners Federation, Annual Conference Report, 1913, pp. 189–42. Cf. F. Hodges, My Adventures as a Labour Leader (n.d.), pp. 67 f.Google Scholar
  13. 2.
    Figures from D. E. Butler and J. Freeman, British Political Fads, 1900–1960 (1968), pp. 122–4.Google Scholar
  14. 3.
    For this view see Sires, ‘Labour Unrest’, p. 247; B. Pribicevic, Shop Stewards’ Movement and Workers’ Control (Oxford, 1959), pp. 161 f.Google Scholar
  15. 4.
    R. E. Dowse, Left in the Centre (1966), p. 19.Google Scholar
  16. 1.
    For an account of this see A. Wright, Disturbed Dublin (1914);Google Scholar
  17. E. Larkin, James Larkin (1965), chs v–viii.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Henry Pelling 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry Pelling
    • 1
  1. 1.St John’s CollegeCambridgeUK

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