TUC opposes football match with Nazi Germany, 1935


Yesterday (February 26th) the Londonist.com published a wonderful blog post recounting the story of how the TUC had opposed a football match between England and Germany in December 1935. The TUC believed the match, to be played at White Hart Lane in Tottenham, north London, had the potential to pose a serious threat to public order and might be construed as legitimising the Nazi regime. They wrote to the Home Secretary and sent a deputation to argue that the match should be cancelled and that Nazis from Germany should not be allowed to travel to Britain. The match did ultimately take place and, as the blog post recounts, a toast was delivered to Herr Hitler at a post-match dinner organised by the Football Association that evening. The head of the FA, Sir Charles Clegg, apparently apologised to the dinner guests for the TUC’s “interference” in trying to politicise sport.

An account of the TUC’s actions is provided in the TUC Annual Congress Report of 1936. Page 179 of the report states:

And continues on page 180:

The pamphlet “Under the Heel of Hitler” mentioned in the extract above, which was produced by the TUC following the incident in order to highlight to the British public the appropriation of sport in Germany for fascist propaganda purposes, is held by the TUC Library. You can see the front cover below:

“Under the Heel of Hitler”, published by the TUC, 1936

To find out more about what the TUC Library holds, get in touch at tuclib@londonmet.ac.uk, 020 7133 3726 or visit our website.


Spotlight on the audio collections in the TUC Library


Just a small selection from our audio collections

The TUC Library contains an extensive audio collection on various media – CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes and vinyl. In addition to our online oral history interviews – on the subject of the Home Front in WWII here, the struggle for equal pay for women here and the changes to the post-war workplace here – the library’s audio collections consist mainly of labour and protest songs, campaign singles, interviews with labour and trade union figures, and audio recordings of various union conferences, events, speeches and rallies.

The library also contains many books and secondary sources covering the history of labour and workers’ songs, political and protest songs. They consist of catalogues and directories of songs and also academic works that discuss the significance of music and song in the the development of the labour movement. A small selection of the books can be seen below:

If you would like to know more about our audio collections get in touch at tuclib@londonmet.ac.uk, phone 020 7133 3726 or visit our website.


Guest post on Minnie Lansbury and the WEA archive collections


This guest blog post is written by Janine Booth, who recently visited the library in order to consult the archive papers of the Workers’ Educational Association:

Janine conducting her research

Minnie Lansbury is my hero. She was a socialist, suffragette, and school teacher, who opposed World War I while championing the rights and welfare of its victims, became an Alderman of Poplar Council, and spent six weeks in prison as part of the successful fight by councillors for a fairer rating system across London boroughs. And she did all this by the age of 32, when she died tragically young, probably as a result of her imprisonment.

Minnie (a name that means “rebel”) was a suffragette who was not called Pankhurst, a Lansbury but only through marriage, and an East Ender born to Polish Jewish immigrant parents. When I was researching my book on the Poplar Council struggle (Guilty and Proud of it, published by Merlin Press in 2009), I sometimes felt like I lived with the ‘Fighting Thirty’ councillors, and Minnie was the one who I really fell for.

History often forgets women like Minnie, and I have made it my mission to ensure that she is not forgotten. So I continued to research her life, I regularly give public talks about her (the next one is on 19 February, hosted by the East London History Society), and I am working towards a biography.

This research has taken me to various archives, including the London Metropolitan Archive, the Tower Hamlets Local History Archive, and the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. It was at the latter that I discovered that Minnie had been elected as a delegate from the Workers’ Suffrage Federation (WSF) to the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) in 1917. The WEA (which, by coincidence, I work for as an occasional sessional tutor) has its archive at the TUC Library. So that is what led me to the building opposite Holloway Road tube station.

A couple of hours browsing confirmed that Minnie had not attended any WEA Council meetings. Oh well. Often, visits to archives reveal what a person did not do, rather than what s/he did, and I have learned that despite the immediate feeling of disappointment, it is still worthwhile visiting, if only to cross that particular line of enquiry off the list.

But there was more. The very helpful chap in the Library (hello Jeff!) showed an interest in my research and wondered whether century-old documents from the National Union of Teachers would be of interest to me. Yes please. I came away with quite a few photocopies from these. None mentioned Minnie (I had already perused her union branch’s old minutes at the Tower Hamlets Archive and found her mentioned several times), but they provided very useful information about the NUT at that time, particularly its attitudes towards the War and towards equal pay for women (both of which left a bit to be desired!).

I found the Library comfortable, quiet and friendly, and found my visit well worthwhile. I will certainly visit again, whether it be for this particular research or for whatever project I get stuck into next. And anyway, I still have credit on my photocopying card!

Janine Booth

A copy of an original “Guilty and Proud of it” pamphlet from the Poplar rate strike, held by the TUC Library.


Guest post on the TUC Library’s WWII poster collections


The following blog post has been written by our volunteer Jenni Rockliff, who is working on the poster collections:

There are three World War II propaganda posters in the TUC Library poster collection which are by the artist Blake. Donald Blake (Frederick Donald Blake) was born in 1908 in Greenock, Renfrewshire. When he was two his family moved to London. From the age of 13 he went to Camberwell School of Arts and Craft (now Camberwell College of Arts, part of University of the Arts London). At the age of 15 Blake went to work as an architectural draughtsman in the building trade. He continued to study part time at Goldsmiths College and Brixton School of Building (this became Brixton College for Further Education, then the University of the Southbank’s School of Building. The site is now the Ferndale Centre in Lambeth). Blake became the head of the drawing office and worked on swimming baths, pub fronts and cinemas.

From 1940 he worked producing propaganda for the Ministry of Information of the British Government including artwork for numerous posters including the three posters in the TUC Library Collections. He also produced war maps and battle impressions for the Daily Express, did other freelance work and began to exhibit his work.

After the war he worked as an artist and a freelance designer producing work for the aircraft industry, the railways, local authorities, Readers Digest and on road safety campaigns. There are a number of railway posters with artwork by him listed on the Science Museum’s web site http://collectionsonline.nmsi.ac.uk/detail.php?type=related&kv=19978&t=people

In the 1960’s Blake became a full-time painter with exhibitions around the world. He moved more towards abstract representations. He lived in Wimbledon for many years and travelled and painted in Cornwall and Tuscany. He was involved with the RI (Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours), the RSMA (Royal Society of Marine Artists), the NEAC (New English Art Club), the Chelsea Arts Club, the Wapping Group of Artists and the London Sketch Club.

Two of the posters in the collection, by Blake, were produced to publicise the supply of arms and military equipment to the Russians. One of the posters depicts a convoy of ships, possibly an Arctic convoy, travelling to Murmansk in Russia. The painting is in blues and lilacs which give the impression of the cold sea and winter skies. Russian fighter planes are shown flying above the convoy, while a German plane is falling into the sea in flames, after being hit by gunfire from one of the ships. The only red in the painting is on the St George’s Ensign on the stern of the Royal Navy ship in the foreground, the red stars on the Russian planes, the gunfire from the ship and the flames coming from the burning German plane.

Another poster shows a convoy of US and British lorries carrying supplies overland to Russia. The lorries are shown moving along a road which is snaking its way through a range of mountains, across a plain and up a steep hill in the foreground. The mountain range in the background is painted in the same browns, yellows and greys as the lorries in the convoy. The sky has hints of a sunrise or sunset with similar colours to the rest of the painting. British planes are also shown flying over the convoy.

The third poster is factual and presents information on ‘The epic of Malta G.C. June 1940-July 1943.’ It has a map of the southern part of Italy and the islands of Malta and Sicily, with parts of Tunisia and Malta shown. The location of various targets that were attacked during the period are shown on the map.

There is more information on this artist and examples of his artworks on a web site dedicated to him at: http://www.fdonaldblake.com

For more information about the TUC Library and how to access the poster collection, see our website http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/tuc


LGBT history in the TUC Library


A guide to LGBT rights at work produced by the TUC in 2001

February is LGBT History Month. To mark the occasion, we turn the spotlight on the LGBT collections in the library. The TUC, trade union and labour movements have long campaigned for equality and anti-discrimination legislation in the workplace and wider society.

The library contains a large collection of pamphlets, leaflets and reports relating to the development of LGBT rights as a public issue, particularly from the 1960s onwards. In 1985 one of the first motions on the subject of equal opportunities for lesbians and gays was passed at the TUC’s annual congress. In 1997 the TUC instituted its first special conference for lesbian and gay workers and it has subsequently become an annual event. The TUC Library contains a full collection of all the TUC annual congress reports and the reports of all the TUC’s special conferences, such as the LGBT conferences.

The library also contains a wider collection of material relating to sexual orientation, sexual harassment, homophobia and social movements for equality. A guide to what the library holds on LGBT issues can be downloaded as a PDF from our website here: metranet.londonmet.ac.uk/fms/MRSite/psd/ls/libsites/tuc/sources-LGBT.pdf

TUC guide produced in 2013


Spotlight on the civil aviation material in the TUC Library


A selection of recent material produced by the Unite union on the subject of the aviation industry

Last week we welcomed some of the University’s civil aviation students for a tour round the library. Although aviation may not be a research area that would immediately be associated with the TUC Library, we actually have a rich collection of material related to the industry. The TUC and the wider labour movement have taken an active interest in the development of the aviation industry throughout the 20th century in respect of its impact on infrastructure, industrial and economic policy.

The collection contains material on the development of the civil aviation industry from the 1910s onwards, the labour conditions in the industry, and we have a particularly good collection relating to the development of airport policy and the siting of airports, etc.

The collection also contains material from the various trade unions that represent workers in the industry. These range from the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), to Unite (representing cabin crew, for example) and other general unions, such as GMB, representing aviation workers on the ground. Customs and Border Agency staff working in airports will be represented by unions such as Public and Commercial Services (PCS).

International flight timetable produced by the LEP Transport Co. Ltd, 1926

To find out more about what the TUC Library contains, get in touch at www.londonmet.ac.uk/tuc