Film launch: Every Cook Can Govern: the life, works and impact of C. L. R. James


On Thursday 31st March a new documentary film will be launched at King’s College, London, exploring the life and works of C. L. R. James (1901 – 1989). James was a Trinidadian historian, essayist, anti-colonialist, and anti-Stalinist marxist. He was an autodidact who wrote widely on Caribbean history, politics, social theory, and cricket.

“The Life of Captain Cipriani” by C. L. R. James, 1932

In the TUC Library we have a number of works on the subject of C. L. R. James and authored by him. We have a copy of C. L. R. James and Revolutionary Marxism, edited by Scott McLemee and Paul Le Blanc. We also have a copy of “The Life of Captain Cipriani: an account of British Government in the West Indies” by C. L. R. James, published in 1932 (above). Captain Cipriani was a trade unionist, politician and founder of the Trinidad Labour Party. In 1933 a condensed version of this work was published as “The Case for West-Indian Self-Government” (see below).

“The Case for West-Indian Self-Government” by C. L. R. James, 1933.

For more information on what we hold on the subject of C. L. R. James, get in touch. You can also download a Resource Guide of sources for Caribbean Studies in the TUC Library.


The campaign against the Trade Union Bill 1927 – Part 2


The Trade Union Covenant, 1927

As we continue to mark the TUC’s #HeartUnions Week, this ‘Trade Union Covenant’ was produced by the TUC/Labour Party in 1927 to campaign against a similar Trade Union Bill. The covenant calls upon trade unionists to pledge themselves to safeguard the heritage of “Freedom and Right of Association” that unions represent.


The campaign against the Trade Union Bill…. 1927


TUC/Labour Party publication, 1927

The current campaign against the Trade Union Bill being highlighted by the TUC’s #HeartUnions Week has similarities to the campaign in 1927 against the Trades Disputes Act. That Act imposed regulations on strikes, picketing and the way unions administered their Political Funds.

The item above was produced by the TUC/Labour Party “Trade Union Defence Committee” in 1927 and can be found in the TUC Library.


#HeartUnions Week


Promotional material for HeartUnions Week

February 8-14th is HeartUnions Week organised by the TUC. A range of activities are planned to highlight the value of trade unions, the contribution of union reps, and to oppose aspects of the Trade Union Bill currently before Parliament.

The TUC Library has received a collection of the material produced by the TUC to promote the campaign, including t-shirts, posters, pens, badges and leaflets (see pic above).

Previously on this blog we have published posts discussing how similar trade union legislation in the past has been challenged by the union movement, particularly the 1927 Trade Disputes Act and the range of trade union legislation in the 1970s and 1980s. This week we will be continuing to post a number of items on the blog that reveal more of this historical context.

For more information, or to visit the TUC Library, get in touch.



Tom De Wit, Curator of the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum, visits the TUC Library


Jeff Howarth (left), librarian of the TUC Library, and Tom looking at photos of the Tolpuddle Martyrs museum and cottages.

Today we had the pleasure of welcoming Tom De Wit, Curator of the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum, to the TUC Library. Tom was visiting to meet the staff and have a tour round our collections. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of six agricultural workers from the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset. In 1834 they were found guilty of “swearing an illegal oath” after joining together to form a union – the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers – in order to protest against the lowering of wages. The men were transported to Australia for their crime, but public outrage eventually led to their pardon and return. Hundreds of thousands signed a petition demanding the Martyrs release and one of the most significant mass political marches of the 19th century took place from Copenhagen Fields in Islington, north London, to deliver the petition to the Home Secretary (see image below).

The Copenhagen Fields demonstration, 1834

You can see more images relating to the Tolpuddle Martyrs on our website here, here and here.



Frank Bailey (1925 – 2015)


Frank Bailey, after joing the fire brigade, 1955

The TUC Library are sorry to hear of the death of trade unionist Frank Bailey.

Frank joined the London firebrigade in 1955 in order to challenge the status quo, after hearing that they employed few black people. He later became a respected rep for the Fire Brigades Union. A picture of Frank has graced the homepage of our Britain at Work website since its launch in 2012 and Frank also appears in the banner to our blog above. Our Britain at Work website also includes the transcript of an interview with Frank.

An obituary can be seen in The Guardian here: