Under one banner: The General Federation of Trade Unions c. 1899-1926
AffiliationFaculty of Arts, Business and Social Sciences
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AbstractThis thesis is a study of the early history of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) from their creation in 1899 until the events surrounding the 1926 general strike. The GFTU were created by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to bring together all trade unions under one banner by acting as an arbitration committee for industrial disputes and administrators of a national strike fund. They quickly grew to be an autonomous organisation that worked alongside the TUC and the fledging Labour Party, and briefly represented British trade unionists on the international stage. Despite this central role, and a peak membership of more than 1.5 million workers in the early 1920s, their contribution to the labour movement has been largely ignored in favour of the much larger TUC. The GFTU was perhaps marginalised due to being more of a committee than an organisation, and for its moderation in industrial politics. Although the principal aim of this thesis is to shed light on an ignored institution, it also posits that an emotions history approach can offer a new lens with which to view organisations. It uses the extensive archival records of the GFTU – including their annual reports, management committee records, newspaper articles, special investigative reports, and council meeting minutes – to reveal a more complex reading of trade union politics and culture in the first three decades of the twentieth century, and highlights the use of emotions as a way in which a sense of community was formed. Although much of labour history has tended to focus on more industrially militant organisations and high profile strikes as a way of understanding the organised working class, considering the more conciliatory voices of trade union organisations such as the GFTU reveals a more nuanced picture of the history of British labour movement. This thesis uses a broad definition of emotions that includes culture and experience, and uses five emotions to uncover more about the people involved in the GFTU during this period: hope, friendship, patriotism, exclusion, and hostility. Using these feelings as a lens reveals much about how the GFTU constructed an idea of shared feelings and experiences that was intended as a way of growing and maintaining their membership levels and support of their policies.
CitationNicolson, E. (2022) Under one banner: The General Federation of Trade Unions c. 1899-1926. University of Wolverhampton. http://hdl.handle.net/2436/625067
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
SponsorsGeneral Federation of Trade Unions
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