Peterborough Trades Union Council 1899-1979: A Forgotten Arena for Working Class Politics




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


Labour historians have only analysed trades union councils briefly. These encounters have rarely looked beyond high-profile events such as suspected communist infiltration in the early interwar and post-war periods and the 1926 General Strike, neglecting much of the significant work which trades councils have done. This kind of analysis has led academics to conclude that trades councils had three functions: industrial; political; and civic. But their work also suggested that these organisations did not make much of an impact in any of these areas during the twentieth century.
This thesis will add to the scant literature on trades councils in the academic field by producing an intimate study of Peterborough Trades Union Council (PTUC) established in 1899. The study will assess PTUC’s industrial, political, and civic functions and establish the extent of delegates’ relationships with civic society and the working class. The research methodology was to use local newspapers which reported regularly on PTUC meetings throughout the period to provide analysis alongside PTUC documents. These documents included correspondence and annual reports from the TUC archives at the University of Warwick and London Metropolitan University and meeting minutes from the trades council’s archive at Peterborough Archive Service. These documents were used to demonstrate the variety of activities which PTUC took part in between 1899 and 1979. The research found that PTUC started its transition to a civic body in 1914 and by the late 1920s industrial and political functions no longer feature much in the trades council’s activities. It concluded that trades councils provided a useful link between the working class and civic leaders which put them in a unique position in local society.





Research Institute