The Belfast shipyard worker was well paid and organised compared to many other groups in the city’s labour force in the years before the First World War. Did their privileged position give them the status of a ‘labour aristocracy’ distinct from the rest of the ‘working class’ in these years? How did their experience compare with other groups of workers in Belfast and perhaps more importantly were there similar ‘elites’ in the other cities?1 The debate about the existence and importance of the ‘Labour Aristocracy’ has been a feature of labour history.2 I shall examine the wide variation of experience within the ‘working class’ in the years 1880–1925. Such divisions were, as Gray suggests in his study of skilled workers in Edinburgh, reinforced by contemporary racial and social values among the ‘working class’.3
KeywordsDepression Income Sorting Dock Shoe
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