North West HISTORY journal
No 47, 2022 - 23
Fifty years ago, the North West Labour History Society was formed. We’re celebrating on 11th November with a day of talks and poetry, discussion and displays, music from Claire Mooney and a birthday cake in Manchester Central Library. Further details on the website. Please join us.
Alan Fowler, our current chair, writes about the early days of the Society but what else was happening fifty years ago? Were things very different from today? In Britain, workers in many industries were resisting Tory government attempts to impose wage restraints as inflation caused a real term drop in wages. Oil prices in the period 1973-4 would rise 400% due to a embargo by OPEC (from $3 to $12 a barrel; the current price is between $87 and $150). By January 1974, I’d be doing my homework in the greenish glow of an gently hissing ancient Tilley lamp as electricity supplies to homes and businesses were restricted on a rota. The Three Day Week was one of the measures to introduced by Prime Minister, Edward Heath, to conserve electricity supplies in the face of industrial action by coal miners and railway workers. In Chile, the democratically elected Socialist government was brutally overthrown with the connivance of the United States and allies. So, some of the names change but - the struggle goes on.
The collection of articles we offer in our anniversary year reflect on injustice, inequality and heroic resistance. Our contributors are prodigious researchers, ever extending their own knowledge and generously sharing with us. Amongst the contributors to this anniversary edition we have the ever reliable James Rees and David Hargreaves. Ralph Darlington offers an account of the summer of 1911 in Manchester and Salford drawing on additional material specifically relating to our area and extending his excellent study of the Labour Revolt of 1910 -14. One of our most respected labour historians, Keith Laybourn, not only gives his written account of the first Labour Government but has very kindly accepted the invitation to speak at our birthday celebration. Lucy Evans focuses on a friendship between two unlikely scholars, one born illegitimate on the streets of Manchester, the other born enslaved in the American Deep South. It’s one of the many facets of William E.A. Axon discovered in research towards a biography. Lucy is one of our very welcome first time authors. I hope we’ll see more from all of them.
This is the perfect moment to remind all of our readers that we welcome your contribution. It needs that link to the North West but we’d love to hear from you; it could be a story from your own family history, an industrial conflict, a personal passion or the result of academic study.
My grateful thanks go to the stalwart members of the Editorial Board, to Mike Carter for design, to all the contributors and to you, the readers. Fifty years of the North West Labour History Society is truly an achievement; Wigan Casino launched the first of its legendary Northern Soul all-nighters in September 1973 but closed eight years later. We’re still dancing!