Studying Working Life in Jamaica

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Yvonne Brown

Yvonne Brown, a visiting researcher/author from Canada, has spent the last four weeks in the TUC Library and The National Archives researching the history of her grand-father in Jamaica and the wider social, political and economic history for a biography.

I am very pleased to sing the praises of the Trade Union Congress Library Collection at the London Metropolitan University.  I came upon this rich source of colonial labour and economic history during a course on archival research that I took at the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London.

For the period of my study in which I am writing a biography of Charles Archibald Reid an Afro-Jamaican who went from being a shoemaker to being thrice elected to the Legislative Council of the Crown Colony Government of Jamaica. This was a time during which labour conditions, unemployment and poverty stalked the land. The customary sources for studying this period are the National Archives and the Local Archives.

The TUC Library provides a rich complement to these two main archives with an emphasis, of course, on both the organization of labour unions and giving voice to the poor labourer. It was profound to read their actual words in the local patois. In stock are numerous reports, studies, cutting, position papers, posters, books, and pamphlets of the TUC, local colonial governments as well as the British parliamentary records of major decisions and their effects on people.

I was impressed by the scope and detail of the collection. My biography will have a much richer context for having explored some this collect. Thanks and appreciation to Jeff Howarth, TUC Librarian and James Goddard, Research Assistant for their guidance through this vast collection. One visit is of course not enough (I spent an unplanned four days there). I will be back! 

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