The British trade-union movement, both in its history and in its present-day characteristics, reflects many of the special features of society and politics in this country. The early growth and strength of the movement were due to the priority of Britain in the process of industrialisation; its comparative homogeneity, and in particular the absence of rival national centres such as exist or have existed in America and in countries on the continent, derive from the national tradition of religious toleration and the fact that immigration has never exceeded the capacity of the country to absorb the newcomer. The continuity of particular unions, in some cases from the beginning of the nineteenth century or earlier up to the present, may be attributed to the evolutionary character of our political history. Not all these things, perhaps, have been to the advantage of our trade unions: to have begun late, like many of the American industrial unions in the 1930’s, or to have been obliged to start afresh, like the German movement in 1945, may make for greater efficiency in operation.


Trade Union Industrial Relation Union Leader Labour Party Political History 
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© Henry Pelling 1976

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  • Henry Pelling

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