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Prisoners of the past

This book examines the impact that nostalgia has had on the Labour Party’s political development since 1951. In contrast to existing studies that have emphasised the role played by modernity, it argues that nostalgia has defined Labour’s identity and determined the party’s trajectory over time. It outlines how Labour, at both an elite and a grassroots level, has been and remains heavily influenced by a nostalgic commitment to an era of heroic male industrial working-class struggle. This commitment has hindered policy discussion, determined the form that the modernisation process has taken and shaped internal conflict and cohesion. More broadly, Labour’s emotional attachment to the past has made it difficult for the party to adjust to the socioeconomic changes that have taken place in Britain. In short, nostalgia has frequently left the party out of touch with the modern world. In this way, this book offers an assessment of Labour’s failures to adapt to the changing nature and demands of post-war Britain.

Editors: Lucy Bland and Richard Carr

This volume offers a series of new essays on the British left – broadly interpreted – during the First World War. Dealing with grassroots case studies of unionism from Bristol to the North East of England, and of high politics in Westminster, these essays probe what changed, and what remained more or less static, in terms of labour relations. For those interested in class, gender, and parliamentary politics or the interplay of ideas between Britain and places such as America, Ireland and Russia, this work has much to offer. From Charlie Chaplin to Ellen Wilkinson, this work paints a broad canvass of British radicalism during the Great War.

A British radical in tumultuous times

9 Charlie Chaplin’s war: a British radical in tumultuous times Richard Carr Foreshadowing the Beatles, during the First World War the actor, director and film impresario Charlie Chaplin would have been justified to claim that he was ‘bigger than Jesus’. This was demonstrably true in Chaplin’s homeland of Great Britain where the wartime cinema going audience of up to 20 million people dwarfed the 2 million or so observant souls then taking Anglican Communion.1 God may not quite have been dead, but people were certainly turning to other, more amusing forms of

in Labour, British radicalism and the First World War
Comparing Mary Macarthur and Sylvia Pankhurst

6 Living through war, waging peace: comparing Mary Macarthur and Sylvia Pankhurst Deborah Thom The First World War brought full employment and increased opportunities for women workers, a new public role matched by new recognition for political women in public life, especially those who were both socialists and feminists. Two political activists, Sylvia Pankhurst and Mary Macarthur, became more visible in wartime and demonstrate the different ways in which socialism and feminism changed and created change. The contrast between them shows some of the problems of

in Labour, British radicalism and the First World War

4 Labour and socialism during the First World War in Bristol and Northampton Matthew Kidd Over the last thirty years, formerly dominant interpretations of British political, cultural and social history have come under sustained attack from a diverse range of ‘revisionist’ scholars. This historiographical vanguard has, to varying extents, drawn attention to the enduring prevalence of populist political attitudes and trans-class social identities in early twentieth-century Britain. While this revisionist challenge has provided a valuable corrective to stage

in Labour, British radicalism and the First World War

5 A stronghold of liberalism? The north-east Lancashire cotton weaving districts and the First World War Jack Southern The First World War fundamentally altered the cotton ‘weaving belt’ areas of Lancashire and was, despite a temporary reprieve in 1919/20, to spell the start of a slow, painful, economic and social decline. The disruption of trade arising from the war ultimately commenced the transformation of an area that prided itself on its independence and ability to ‘make’ money, to one that by the 1930s many operatives and owners looked to escape. As a

in Labour, British radicalism and the First World War
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Introduction The idea of the just war is in danger of becoming one of the political clichés of the new century. From an object of neglect and indifference it has been transformed into the dominant image of war in the post-cold war age. Moral distaste for war and things military, widely felt during an era of superpower rivalry and nuclear confrontation, has given way (in some circles at least) to

in Political concepts

13 The problem of war aims and the Treaty of Versailles John Callaghan Why did Britain go to war in 1914? The answer that generated popular approval concerned the defence of Belgian neutrality, defiled by German invasion in the execution of the Schlieffen Plan. Less appealing, and therefore less invoked for public consumption, but broadly consistent with this promoted justification, was Britain’s long-standing interest in maintaining a balance of power on the continent, which a German victory would not only disrupt, according to Foreign Office officials, but

in Labour, British radicalism and the First World War

11 Russia’s war and revolutions as seen by Morgan Philips Price and Arthur Henderson Jonathan Davis At the start of the First World War, the liberal journalist Morgan Philips Price and the new leader of the Labour Party in Britain, Arthur Henderson, supported their government’s conflict against the Central Powers. Price greeted the news cautiously and offered a reserved backing to the Liberal politicians who took the country to war; Henderson moved quickly from an anti-war stance to one of unqualified backing for the Triple Entente. Over the next four years

in Labour, British radicalism and the First World War

10 Irish Labour and the ‘Co-operative Commonwealth’ in the era of the First World War Marc Mulholland This chapter takes a long-run view of attitudes to socialism in Ireland before, during and immediately following the First World War. In doing so, it highlights the specificity of the Irish form of socialism in the idea of the ‘Co-operative Commonwealth’. To begin with, then, we should note that from its origins in the mid-1820s until the 1870s, socialism as it developed in Europe was overwhelmingly an anti-statist ideology. It envisaged future society as based

in Labour, British radicalism and the First World War