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The 1911 Waterfront Strikes in Glasgow: Trade Unions and Rank-and-File Militancy in the Labour Unrest of 1910–1914

  • Matt Vaughan Wilson
Abstract

This article examines one of several massive industrial conflicts experienced in Britain and elsewhere during 1910–1914, paying particular attention to organization and the dynamics of the strikes at a local level. It takes as a case study the port of Glasgow, which has until recently received little attention from historians of waterfront labour, despite its status as a major port and an important area for labour activity. Much literature on the waterfront strike wave emphasizes spontaneity and rank-and-file initiative. These were important in Glasgow as elsewhere, but experiences varied markedly between the major ports. Moreover, prior organization and individual initiative should not be overlooked. Officials of the National Sailors' and Firemen's Union played a significant role at national and international levels, while Glasgow Trades Council and activists associated with it provided a critical lead locally. The strongly local character of the strike movement and its leadership in Glasgow shaped both the strikes themselves – which were appreciably more unified and coherent in Glasgow than in some other centres – and the subsequent development of waterfront organization on the Clyde, marked as it was by the emergence of independent locally-based unions among both dockers and seamen.

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Footnotes
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I would like to thank Adrian Randall, the Editors, and two anonymous referees for the journal for helpful comments on earlier drafts, and to acknowledge the financial assistance of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which funded the research on which this article is based. An early draft was presented at a conference on “The History of Strikes, Lock-Outs and General Strikes”, organized by the Society for the Study of Labour History and Historical Studies in Industrial Relations and held at Keele University, UK in May 2006.
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International Review of Social History
  • ISSN: 0020-8590
  • EISSN: 1469-512X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-review-of-social-history
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