New books! See our new acquisitions


We’re excited to have taken delivery of a new batch of books. Titles include Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain’s Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and union activists, Owen Jones’s The Establishment, and Kerry-Anna Mendoza’s Austerity.

We have also acquired a number of academic books on specific trade union subjects, such as Trade Union Merger Strategies by Roger Undy, Steve Coulter’s New Labour, Industrial Relations and the Trade Unions, Alan Bogg’s The Democratic Aspects of Trade Union Recognition and Bogg and Novitz (eds) Voices at Work.

If you’d like to visit, get in touch at, 020 7133 3726.


Race relations and anti-discrimination material in the TUC Library


To mark UN Anti-Racism Day on Saturday 21st March we turn the spotlight on the material relating to race and racial discrimination in the TUC Library:

The trade union and labour movement has a proud record in recent decades of campaigning against racial discrimination in the workplace and wider society. Like all institutions of public life, however, it also has a more complicated history with respect to identifying and challenging racism within its own structures in the post-war period. For an excellent introduction to the history of black workers and trade unions you can read an article written by Wilf Sullivan, Race Equality Officer for the TUC, produced for our Britain at Work website.

There is a long history of ethnic minority immigration to Britain, as can be seen in the satirical image above from the 1830s, showing a “disorderly” union meeting with three black workers present. Immigration continued into the early 20th century and inter-war period, particularly in the merchant navy and dock labouring industries.

However, it was the immediate post-WWII period that saw the most significant increase in immigration into the UK, as the “Windrush generation” were actively encouraged by the British state to ease post-war labour shortages. Many of the immigrants came from the Commonwealth nations – the West Indies, India, Pakistan, etc. – and worked in sectors such as transport, catering, hospitality, and the newly established National Health Service.

Life was not easy for new immigrants and they often faced various forms of discrimination. In the workplace a colour bar existed in particular industries, a policy that in some cases was actively supported by the industry’s union.

In 1958 racially motivated disturbances broke out in Notting Hill, London, and in other areas such as Nottingham. The TUC produced a statement condemning the violence (see below) and the next year the Notting Hill Carnival was founded in order to foster better community relations.

TUC statement on racial disturbances, 1958

In the 1960s legislation was enacted to more tightly regulate immigration, for example the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. Other legislation did secure significant reforms, most notably the 1965 Race Relations Act, which outlawed racial discrimination in public places. Later legislation would extend the law to cover employment opportunities and the provision of housing and other services.

It was not until the 1970s that the trade union movement took meaningful steps to recognise and challenge racism within its own structures. This was prompted by a number of strikes involving ethnic minority workers during the 1970s. In 1972 a dispute at Mansfield Hosiery involving mainly Asian workers was not supported by the workers’ union. In 1974 a dispute at the Imperial Typewriters company in Leicester prompted the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) to conduct a post-strike enquiry into the actions of some of its local officials. This coincided with the TGWU publishing one of the first pamphlets to seriously consider the issue of racial discrimination within unions and to propose reforms for making them more internally representative and to better serve the interests of their ethnic minority members. This pamphlet, “Racialism, Fascism and the Trade Unions” (below) can be found in the TUC Library. It discusses racism within society, the rise of fascist groups such as the National Front and what unions should be doing to oppose such activities.

Pamphlet produced by the TGWU (now Unite), 1974

A significant event also occurred at the 1973 TUC Annual Congress, where the TUC decided to end its “colour blind” policy and instead directly tackle the racial discrimination issue by starting to produce publications and educational materials on the issue of race and for ethnic minority members.

An even more significant event was the Grunwick strike of 1976-78, which involved mainly Asian women working at the Grunwick Film Processing Labs in Hendon, north London. It was one of the first strikes, and certainly the most high profile, in which the trade union movement displayed significant solidarity and support for ethnic minority strikers. The library contains a large collection of material relating to the dispute.

Grunwick strikers at the 1977 TUC Congress.

In 1976 the TUC and the Labour Party also organised a joint Campaign Against Racialism, involving a march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square.

Into the 1980s the TUC and trade union movement continued to campaign against racial discrimination at work, against practices such as ‘ethnic monitoring‘ in provision of public services and benefits, and in support of the growing equality and diversity agenda.

TUC “Workbook on Racism”, produced for union education courses, 1983

The TUC Library continues to collect a wide variety of publications and campaigning materials from the TUC, unions, Labour Party and other organisations, on the subject of race equality and anti-discrimination. To find out more about what we hold get in touch at, 020 7133 3716 or visit our website.


Visit from Prof Osamu Umezaki of Hosei University, Tokyo


The TUC Library was delighted to welcome Professor Osamu Umezaki from Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan on Wednesday.

Prof Umezaki was visiting the TUC Library as he has an interest in trade union oral history interviews and is undertaking an oral history project in Japan. He visited specifically to discuss our previous oral history projects, in particular our recent website, Britain at Work.

Prof Umezaki said:

My specific area of interest is in Japanese labor history, which I research orally and through various documents.
As a result of my research over the years, I have collected a number of oral history records pertaining to the history of labor in Japan, which I hope to keep in an archive similar to yours.
Osaka Labor Archive, located in Osaka, Japan, has been kind enough to offer their services in helping me to establish Japan’s first such oral labor history archive.
As there is a lack of expertise in this field in Japan, it is our hope that we can learn archiving techniques from oral history offices such as yours.

Osamu Umezaki, Ph.D.
Professor of Faculty of Lifelong Learning and Career Studies, Hosei University



Guest post: Second World War posters in the TUC Library


Guest post from Jenni Rockliff, volunteer working on the poster collections:

I am finally approaching the end of my task to list the boxes of World War Two posters held in the TUC Library Collections. In the final batch of posters, I came across an Arabic version of a poster I had already listed. This poster, with the title ‘One by one, his legs will be broken’, has a striking image of a spider, with the face of Adolf Hitler, sprawled across Europe and North Africa.

Ships, tanks and aircraft are depicted slicing through the legs of the spider, loosening the spider’s grip on occupied countries. The image is almost entirely in 3 colours, oranges, black and white, which create a dramatic effect in colours which are often seen as ‘danger’ colours in nature. The space above the earth on the right hand side of the poster is black, while the left hand side of the poster has a bright white ‘sky’, perhaps to indicate the ‘dawn’ of a brighter era. The spider is also a creature which many people have an instinctive dislike of and is a creature commonly used in propaganda along with other creatures such as rats.

The creator of this artwork was Kimon Evan Marengo who signed his works with his initials and was, therefore, commonly known as ‘KEM’. Marengo is reported to have produced over 3,000 propaganda artworks for the British Ministry of Information during World War 2 including this image.

Marengo was born in 1904 in Zifta, Egypt and grew up in Alexandria. His father was a Greek Cotton merchant. As a young man, between 1923 to 1931, he edited and produced work, including cartoons and caricatures, for his weekly political and satirical magazine, Maalesh (translated as ‘Sorry’ or ‘Oh well, never mind’).

From 1929 to 1931, Marengo studied at the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques (Paris Institute of Political Studies). During the 1930’s he produced cartoons for a number of French and international newspapers and publications, including British newspapers such as the Daily Herald and the Daily Telegraph. In 1939 Marengo went to Oxford University to study for a degree, but due to the start of the war he had to stop his studies.

During the war Marengo not only created propaganda artwork but acted as political adviser on the Middle East for the British Foreign Office, working in the French and North African sections of the Political Warfare Executive (PWE), where he ran what was known as “the Kem Unit.” He wrote and illustrated eight books for the Ministry of Information, some of which appeared in European languages and in three forms of Arabic (classical, Moghrabi, and Ladino – the Hebrew script for Moroccan Jews) and Farsi. He also worked as a British and American war correspondent.
Following the war Marengo returned to study on an accelerated BA programme at Exeter College, Oxford and graduated in 1946. He continued to produce satirical and political cartoons including one for The Spectator in 1966 entitled ‘TUC of War’ which can be seen on the Cartoon Museum web site:[Kimon%20Evan%20Marengo]

He married Una O’Connor in 1954 and had two children, Richard and Alexander. He died in London on 4th November 1988.
More information on KEM can be found on the Cartoon Museum web site:


New report: Impact on Women of Recession and Austerity


Following International Women’s Day on 8th March (see our posts on the topic here and here) and the start of the TUC’s 2015 Women’s Conference today, the TUC has published a new report The Impact on Women of Recession and Austerity. The report considers issues such as job casualisation and vulnerable work, zero hours contracts, low pay, discrimination and harassment, and the gender pay gap. To find out more about any of these issues and view other reports and publications on the subject of women at work, contact the TUC Library at or 020 7133 3726


Spotlight on the international women’s movement collections


In the second of our blog posts celebrating International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March, we turn the spotlight on the collections in the library relating to internationalism within the women workers’ movement.

The British delegation to the Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Zurich, 1919.

As the picture above attests, there is a long history of international women’s solidarity. The experience of the First World War was particularly significant in mobilising a variety of different groups, such as feminists, socialists, anarchists and pacifists. This picture shows the British delegation to the Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which met in Zurich at the same time as the Paris Peace Conference. The League urged the Paris conference to include a 12-point Women’s Charter implementing women’s suffrage, equal pay and economic opportunities.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 also provoked international exchange, with a number of trade union delegations travelling to Russia in the 1920s. The photo below is from an album presented to the Women’s Trade Union Delegation on a visit to Russia in 1925 and shows a group of Russian women celebrating International Women’s Day in 1924. The library also contains material from other Russian delegations, including those undertaken by Margaret Bondfield, the first woman Cabinet minister in the 1929 Labour government. You can find out more about our Russian collections here.

International Women’s Day demonstration, Russia, 1924.

In 1926 the “Open Door” international movement was founded. The group consisted of women who were opposed to growing levels of protectionist legislation that prevented women entering particular trades, such as mining, on an equal footing with men. Below, on the left, is just one example of the group’s publications held in the library. Its campaign was a controversial one, however, as can be seen from the item on the right – a 1930 pamphlet from the Labour Party opposing the Open Door movement’s aims.

Open Door International conference report, 1935

Labour Party pamphlet, 1930











In the post-WWII period the internationalist and feminist movements grew significantly, and when the UN designated 1975 as International Women’s Year the British labour movement, including the TUC, held a number of promotional events. In May 1975 the TUC held a rally and march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. You can see more images from the rally on our website Britain at Work.

The labour movement continued to support the annual celebration of International Women’s Day. The poster below was produced when the event coincided with the 1984-85 miners’ strike, promoting a rally organised by Women Against Pit Closures.

The TUC Library continues to collect a broad range of contemporary publications related to international women’s campaigns and international comparative data on women’s employment, pay, conditions, etc, in many different countries. To find out more about what we hold, or to arrange a visit, get in touch at, 020 7133 3726, or visit our website.


“Lose Not Those Things That We Have Wrought”: highlighting the collections related to women workers in Britain


In the first of two blog posts celebrating International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March, we turn the spotlight on material in the library that documents the history of women workers in Britain. Tomorrow’s post will focus on the international women’s movement.

Women’s Trade Union League badge, with the motto “Lose Not Those Things That We Have Wrought”.

The library’s collections relating to women workers dates from the late 19th century, when the first women’s unions were formed. The Women’s Trade Union League (which had previously been known as the Women’s Protective and Provident League) had been founded by Emma Paterson in 1874 and its records merged with those of the TUC and the Labour Party in 1922 to form what is now the TUC Library. We hold the League’s reports, minutes and journals. We also hold the personal papers of Gertrude Tuckwell, who was involved with the League from 1891 and became its President from 1908 onwards. The Tuckwell archive is a unique resource that documents women’s union organising, women’s working conditions and political and suffrage campaigns, amongst many other topics. You can see the archive catalogue at:

In addition, the library also holds the records of the National Federation of Women Workers, established by Mary Macarthur in 1906. The Federation was particularly effective in highlighting poor conditions in the sweated trades and its activities were influential in securing the 1909 Trade Boards Act that set minimum wage rates and conditions in some of the most exploitative trades, in which women workers predominated.

Mary Macarthur, founder of the National Federation of Women Workers, speaking at Trafalgar Square, 1908

Pamphlet produced by the Labour Party, 1936.

A number of influential strikes took place between 1910-1914, for example amongst the women chain makers of Cradley Heath in 1910, and during the First World War women entered the workforce in munitions manufacture and other industries. The trend continued in the inter-war period, precipitated by social and demographic changes, and the Second World War would have a transformative effect on the public perception of the value of women’s work. A series of images and documents relating to women in the Second World War can be seen on our website The Workers’ War.

In the post-war period it became more common for women to enter the workforce although they still faced many forms of discrimination, some of which – such as the marriage bar – were not fully eradicated for many decades. A number of images and documents on the subject of women’s work in the post-war period can be seen on our website Britain at Work.

One struggle that has had a long history but came to the fore in the post-war period was that of equal pay for women. Various industrial disputes took place on the issue, such as at the Ford Dagenham plant in 1968, culminating in the passing of the 1970 Equal Pay Act. In 2008 the TUC Library produced a dedicated website telling the story of the struggle for equal pay, called Winning Equal Pay: the Value of Women’s Work.

Although the victory in passing the Equal Pay Act was a significant achievement, women to this day still face many forms of discrimination in the workplace and a pay gap still persists, as can be seen from the badge below produced by the TUC in 2000 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Act.

Badge produced by the TUC in 2000

The TUC Library continues to collect a wide range of reports and publications on the subjects affecting women at work. If you would like to know more about what we hold, or would like to visit, please get in touch at, 020 7133 3726, or visit our website.



Spotlight on the nutrition and public health collections in the TUC Library


Ever since the library was founded in 1922, the TUC, Labour Party and wider trade union and labour movement have been interested in issues of health, diet, nutrition and living standards. As a result the TUC Library contains a wealth of material on these subjects from throughout the 20th century and up to the present.

From the various social reform movements of the 1920s and 30s that investigated poverty and working class health and diet, to the effects of rationing and food control during World War II, to contemporary debates about school meals and childhood obesity, the library has material related to all these subjects.

You can see a small selection of our nutrition collections on our Pinterest ‘Nutrition’ board here:

The library not only holds material on nutrition as a general subject, but also the publications of the various trade unions that represent workers in the food and health industry. From the British Dietetics Association, to the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, to nurses and health visitors in the public sector union UNISON, the TUC library holds all their publications  – such as annual reports, conference proceedings, their union journal or magazine, etc.

The library also has collections relating to more specific subjects, such as food safety and hygiene, industrial canteens, civic restaurants and communal feeding, exposure to chemicals and health and safety at work, the effects of poverty and deprivation.

To find out more about what the library contains, or to arrange an appointment to visit, get in touch at, 020 7133 3726 or visit our website.


Guest post on women’s union material in the TUC Library


Guest blog post by Alice Walkiewicz, City University of New York, on her recent visit to research women garment workers:

Alice consulting the Gertrude Tuckwell papers on microfilm

With the generous assistance of James and Jeff, I spent a week in January at the TUC
Library exploring their excellent holdings related to late-19th/early-20th century garment
workers’ unions. I am a doctoral candidate in Art History in the United States (at the
Graduate Center of the City University of New York), and I was at the TUC Library to
conduct research for my dissertation. My project explores the relationship between art
production and the rise of the labor movement in Britain, France, and the United States at the end of the 19th century, using the figure of the seamstress/garment worker as a case study to uncover different national, visual responses to the international call for labor reform at that time.

The TUC Library holds a large amount of material relevant to my topic, including early
union publications, like the Women’s Union Journal and the Women’s Trade Union
Review, and rich ephemeral collections related the various unions, specific labor
concerns, and general female employment (just to name a few). The TUC Library is also the repository of the Gertrude Tuckwell papers. An important early trade unionist and advocate for women’s rights, Tuckwell became secretary of the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) in 1891 and president in 1905. In 1908, she became president of the National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW). She remained active in both the
WTUL And NFWW through World War I, retiring from public life in 1918.

Tuckwell’s papers include a wealth of material that really helps provide insight into the
interests and concerns of the women’s trade union movement around the turn of the 20th century. The collection of press cuttings amassed by Tuckwell from across Great Britain and organized by themes — like the sweating of various trades or the activities of the different unions she worked with — offers an excellent perspective into the pervasiveness of these concerns. The wealth of clippings is not only informative about what labor concerns were prevalent in the news at the time, but also helps to define the broader cultural context of the moment when late-19th-century seamstress images — which are at the center of my examination — were created. The Tuckwell papers are a truly fantastic resource for anyone exploring women’s trade unions around the turn of the 20th century.

An example of a page from the Women’s Union Journal, produced by the Women’s Protective and Provident League.