Popular political continuity in urban England, 1867-1918: the case studies of Bristol and Northampton

Kidd, Matthew (2016) Popular political continuity in urban England, 1867-1918: the case studies of Bristol and Northampton. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis examines the transition between working-class radicalism and labour politics in two provincial English constituencies, Bristol and Northampton, between 1867 and 1918. By combining local case studies with a textual analysis of empirical material and a conceptual approach to ideology, it offers fresh insights into popular political change in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain.

Its central argument is that, contrary to the prevailing historiography on labour politics and identity, a distinctive sense of class could shape working-class radical and labour strategies, languages, identities, and ideologies continuously between 1867 and 1918. In particular, it demonstrates that before the mid-1880s, working-class radical activists in Bristol and Northampton exhibited a non-adversarial sense of class that shaped their perceptions of the social order, their interpretations of radical ideology, and their relationships with both mainstream liberals and middle-class radicals.

It also suggests that while working-class radicals came to use 'labour' to describe themselves and their organisations from the mid-1880s, this was primarily a rhetorical move rather than one reflecting a substantive change in their political identity. Over the next thirty years, labour activists in both Bristol and Northampton remained fiercely committed to the dominant strategy, the non-conflictual conception of class, and the political ideology that had long shaped local working-class radical traditions. In these constituencies, the Victorian tradition of working-class radicalism left an indelible mark on twentieth-century labour politics.

This study has important implications for our understanding of political and ideological change in modern Britain. Firstly, confirming the existence of a decidedly working-class radical movement makes it easier to understand the rise of a class-based labour politics in late Victorian Britain without having to account for either discontinuities in popular politics or the re-emergence of a dormant class consciousness within the British working class. Secondly, establishing a line of continuity between working-class radicalism and later labour politics helps us to explain some of the tensions that characterised progressive politics in the Edwardian era. Finally, seeing working-class radicalism as a distinctive ideology with its own conceptual framework enriches our understanding of non-liberal progressive thought in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Auerbach, Sascha
Blackburn, Dean
Keywords: History, Radicalism, Labour, Popular politics, Continuity, Change Working class trade union
Subjects: D History - General and Old World > DA Great Britain
J Political science > JA Political science (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 32132
Depositing User: Kidd, Matthew
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2016 08:33
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 17:51
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/32132

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