Patriotic labour in England in the era of the Great War

Lead Research Organisation: University of Central Lancashire
Department Name: Sch of Education and Social Sciences


This project 'Patriotic labour in England in the era of the Great War' will explore and analyse the support for war amongst working-class people and their representative organisations. Within ten years of the outbreak of the war, the Labour Party had formed a government, marking a change which is still fundamental to modern British politics. Before 1914 the Labour Party's strategy (supported by its labour movement allies) was based on sectional class interests and protests rather than realistic hopes for government. Yet, by 1924, it was electable. With widespread postwar disillusionment, the labour movement was often embarrassed by its patriotism and the importance of this was forgotten or ignored. This extended into the labour historiography of the Great War period, which mainly focused on the labour movement's protest and anti-war activities; conscientious objectors, the shop stewards' movement, and responses to the Russian Revolution. Yet the vast majority of the working class, the labour movement and the Labour Party supported the war effort in patriotic way. This has generated little literature, especially so in recent years. This study of how patriotism contributed to Labour's decisive breakthrough will address this major imbalance and represent an important narrative on the verge of the war's centenary.

The student will use the resources and skills of the Labour History Archive and Study Centre (LHASC) within the People's History Museum (PHM), in partnership with historians at UCLan. The Labour Party archive at the LHASC contains the huge and considerably understudied War Emergency Workers' National Committee papers, which will form the core of the research source, along with other Labour Party papers. These will be complemented by other key repositories in the North West and nationally.

A uniquely qualified team has been assembled to support the student, and to make his or her outputs widely available within the context of the huge public history celebration which will mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War in 2014. With the expert knowledge of the supervision team within the museum and the university meeting regularly, the student will undertake a trawl of the archives, with a view to deciding how the sources can best address a number of key research questions. These will relate to:

-The labour movement's contribution to voluntary recruiting, which will be studied for the first time

-A survey of the role of labour movement in wartime corporate state

-An analysis of the impact of patriotism on labour movement rank and file activists' motivation in the postwar period

-The impact of working-class patriotism in making the Labour Party electable in the high politics of the postwar period. This process will steer the student and the supervision team into a firm direction with clear objectives for the final thesis.

The partnership between UCLan and the PHM is firm and long established and the recent appointment of the previous museum Director as Senior Research Fellow at the university is adding value to the collaboration, with this first joint CDA bid.

The PHM, having recently undergone a £12.5m refurbishment, will play an active part in the huge public history programme for the centenary of the Great War to which the student and supervision team will contribute. The partnership's contribution will be a conference on Regions and Great War in 2012, which will publish papers in 2014; a museum exhibition, with gallery talks and an archive display in the same year; and a joint public history conference with UCLan's well supported Institute of Local and Family History.

Planned Impact

The research will have a wide impact within academic communities. As well as the strong partnership between the PHM and UCLan it will also impact within the research community centred around the Labour History Archive and Study Centre (LHASC) within the museum, (1,000 researchers a year from 80 HEIs). Gallery talks, the planned conferences in 2012 and 2014, displays in the LHASC and the 2014 museum exhibition will be vehicles for this. These will also impact on wider academic circles: political, social, cultural and military historians who may be reached by further publications and activities from the student and from members of the supervision team. The student's work will also be used by Mansfield and Stewart in their wider research and teaching at UCLan and the PHM.

The PHM will be a major beneficiary of the research. Since its reopening in February 2010, it has attracted widespread public attention, with very positive national media coverage, the winning of awards (Greater Manchester Building of the Year) and 65,000 visitors in 8 months. It hosted the reception for the Museums Association Conference in Manchester in September 2010, bringing it to the attention of the whole museums community, and in the same month was visited by the Society of Archivists Conference. The PHM (via its Director and Marketing Officer) will use its excellent media contacts to disseminate the findings of this study. This process will be helped by having the former Director of the PHM as PI. He has a public profile which covers both many years of positive experience with the press and TV and successful outputs in academic and popular historical publications.

2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, which will be celebrated with many public history programmes. The communication and engagement plans for the study will focus around this major national celebration. The Imperial War Museum is already collating these nationally and the PHM - in partnership with UCLan - has made outline proposals for exhibitions (in the LHASC and the museum's Changing Exhibition gallery for 2014), gallery talks by the student and PI (in 2014), conferences (with MMU in 2012 and with the Institute of Family and Local History [IFLH] at UCLan in 2014) and publications. These will be organised and edited by Mansfield, drawing on successful experiences with the two other CDA students, and turning on the heroic but often forgotten story of the patriotism of the labour movement during the war. The student will play an active role in these alongside the supervision team.

UCLan in partnership with the PHM, Manchester Metropolitan Univ. and the Imperial War Museum North, is organising the Localities and Regional Identities in the Great War conference in 2012, with papers being published in the planned special Great War issue of the Manchester Region History Review in 2014, which Mansfield will edit. The PhD student would help organise the conference and be expected to present early findings in his/her research. A second conference on the public history of the Great War is planned by the well established IFLH at UCLan for 2014, intended for a more general audience and at which the student would also give a paper. There may also be a more public role for the student and supervisors around the centenary, building on existing media contacts made by Mansfield at the museum.

The student will play an active role with the PHM, as part of a community of interns from post graduate museums studies and libraries courses etc. S/he will have a base in the museum office, with computer, desk and access to all facilities. S/he will take part in life of museum, supervised by the Research Officer and Archivist, as well as also interacting with the Exhibitions Officer, Marketing Officer and Learning team. This will bring an added unique quality to the student's experience


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