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Wool textile workers and trade union organisation in the post-war woollen district of Yorkshire

Price, Laura Christine (2015) Wool textile workers and trade union organisation in the post-war woollen district of Yorkshire. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis examines the level of trade union membership amongst wool textile workers in the Yorkshire woollen district after 1945. Trade union membership had always been low amongst wool textile workers, in comparison with similar industries such as the cotton textile industry. Although wool workers’ low level of union membership has been referred to by eminent scholars of labour history such as David Howell and E. P. Thompson, no studies of significant length or scope have been undertaken on this topic. This thesis seeks to redress the balance away from other, better-organised groups of workers onto a workforce and an industry that have received little scholarly attention. Although the wool workforce had always been poorly organised collectively, the post-war period was chosen both because of the larger variety of sources available to historians, including oral sources, and because the industry’s decline was occurring throughout this period. The thesis shows that decline – and the threat of jobs which accompanied it – was not enough to induce wool textile workers to join a trade union. The thesis draws on oral history sources with former wool textile workers, along with statistical information about the industry and the local population, government records, and the records of the National Union of Dyers, Bleachers and Textile Workers, as well as contemporary newspaper reports. The thesis demonstrates that there were several factors that combined to limit the growth of collective organisation amongst wool textile workers. The most significant was the organisation of the industry into many small units of production, which not only posed practical difficulties of organisation, but also encouraged close relations between workers and employers that circumvented the need for trade unions. Additionally, there was no common ‘wool worker’ identity with which unions could mobilise potential members.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Wool textiles, labour history, work
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.680634
Depositing User: Dr Laura Christine Price
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2016 12:45
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/12120

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