What if… Fascism had triumphed in Britain?

On Thursday 15 May, the PHM will explore alternative histories for Museums at Night. Join our hypothetical tour guides as they weave tall tales and ask you to imagine infinite possibilities of what might have been. In a series of blog posts before the event we’ll be featuring questions so you can swot up on your hypothetical history and add your own alternatives. On the night we’ll subvert our timeline with your suggestions. In this blog, our Gallery Assistant Andy Hoyle asks What if… Fascism had triumphed in Britain?

Oswald MosleyThe British Union of Fascists was formed by Oswald Mosley in 1932. He had been both a Conservative and Labour politician and, after touring Benito Mussolini’s Italy in the early 30s, returned to Britain convinced that the doctrine of Fascism should be adopted. The BUF were initially supported by Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail, and had significant backing from aristocratic circles. Funded with Italian money, the BUF mimicked their European counterparts as followers of the party began wearing Blackshirts during meetings and on marches. British Union of FascistsThe lightning bolt inside a circle became their symbol. After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the BUF began to shift tack and Mosley’s brand of Fascism became more and more anti-Semitic. Synagogues were increasingly attacked and graffiti was daubed on buildings (notably ‘Kill the Jews’ and ‘We want a pogrom in London’ written in 1936). This virulent anti-Semitism culminated at the battle of Cable Street in 1936, when approximately 4,000 Blackshirts attempted to march through the Jewish East End of London. An estimated 100,000 anti-Fascists opposed them. When war was declared in 1939 the BUF were banned and most of their senior leadership, including Mosley, were interned. But…could things have been different???

  • Although the BUF didn’t stand in elections, could Mosley’s slate of MPs have done enough to influence British politics? Their anti-war stance struck a chord with many voters, and their protectionist, patriotic principles were popular in many districts.
  • Could Mosley and the BUF have launched an internal coup? Franco succeeded in Spain using this method. Would the Blackshirts have gained any support from other areas in society such as the armed forces or the police force (some members of the Metropolitan Police were seen making fascist salutes at Cable Street)? Would Mosley have waited until after the war had commenced before launching his insurrection?
  • If Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain (Operation Sea Lion) had been successful in 1940, would he have appointed Mosley as Prime Minister? If so, would there have been a resistance movement?
  • What would Britain, or indeed Greater Manchester look like under a Fascist state? Would Manchester’s Midland Hotel have served as a BUF building? Would Rochdale Town Hall have functioned in a similar manner? It has been suggested that the architecture of these two buildings was especially favoured by Adolf Hitler. Would Strangeways prison be expanded to house political prisoners?

Add your answers below or come and discuss at our Museums at Night: What if…? event on Thursday 15 May, 5.00pm – 8.00pm

What if… banners were never used as part of campaigns and demonstrations?

On Thursday 15 May, the PHM will explore alternative histories for Museums at Night. Join our hypothetical tour guides as they weave tall tales and ask you to imagine infinite possibilities of what might have been.  In a series of blog posts before the event we’ll be featuring questions so you can swot up on your hypothetical history and add your own alternatives.  On the night we’ll subvert our timeline with your suggestions. In this blog, our Director, Katy Archer asks What if… banners were never used as part of campaigns and demonstrations?

Liverpool Tinplate Workers' bannerOur museum is full of fantastic, beautiful and colourful banners. From the Liverpool Tinplate Workers banner from 1821 through to the Mansfield Labour Party Women’s Section in 1988, we are very proud and privileged to be the custodians of such an essential part of the history of the development of democracy in our country.

As the ‘home of ideas worth fighting for’ we showcase a wide range of campaigns from a wide range of organisations and groups who have fought for a cause… and who have all used banners as an effective tool and technique in their campaigns.

Our banners to me are works of art, they are full of meaning and messages. They show how people came together united by a common cause – and were, and still are, objects of great pride.

When you see each of our banners on display individually or collectively, they are not easily forgotten. They provide a lasting legacy (through the work of our amazing conservation team!) of the ideas that people have fought for… equality, democracy, peace, reform, co-operation and many more.

Banners on a marchAnd they’re still current and contemporary too – look at any images of footage of recent protests and marches and you’ll see great numbers of banners still being used today.

Brixton Bomb banner by Ed HallAnd they are still being made today as well – our recent exhibition with Ed Hall displaying the work of a contemporary banner maker still using the traditional tool and technique to give voice to current campaigns.

  • But what if… banners had never been part of the campaigning tradition?
  • Or what if… the tradition died out years ago to be replaced by digital alternatives with no ‘real’ substance?
  • What if… none of the banners in our collection had survived to be seen by our visitors today?
  • How would we know and see what people have fought for and still fight for today?
  • How would people today be connected to past campaigns in a way that creates such an emotional response? And which moves people to fight for something that they believe in today?
  • What else would have had such dramatic impact?
    • Mascots? Cheerleaders? Dancing Elephants?

Add your answers below and come along to our Museums at Night: What if…? event on Thursday 15 May, 5.00pm – 8.00pm to see our beautiful banners for yourself and have your say about what if… they never existed!?

 

What if…the Chartists had been successful?

On Thursday 15 May, the PHM will explore alternative histories for Museums at Night. Join our hypothetical tour guides as they weave tall tales and ask you to imagine infinite possibilities of what might have been.  In a series of blog posts before the event we’ll be featuring questions so you can swot up on your hypothetical history and add your own alternatives.  On the night we’ll subvert our timeline with your suggestions. In this blog, our Curatorial Assistant (Collections), Harriet Richardson asks What if… the Chartists had been successful?

The Chartists grew up after the 1832 Reform Act only extended the franchise to men with property over £10, thereby effectively creating a wedge between working and middle class people. The working class, still omitted from the parliamentary system, felt betrayed, and this created a level of unrest within a large section of society. This unrest was heightened with the introduction of the draconian New Poor Law in 1834 which was seen as an attack on the working classes.

The Chartists came together when this resentment led to protest from people who demanded political reform throughout the 1830s-1850. The Chartist movement had at its core the six point charter which listed political demands for reform. These were:

  • Universal suffrage for all men 21 and over
  • Equal sized electoral districts
  • Voting by secret ballot
  • An end to the need for property qualification for parliament
  • Pay for MPs
  • Annual elections of parliament

Today, all of these demands have been met- apart from annual elections. However, at the time, the Chartists were wholly unsuccessful in their aims for democracy. But what would have happened if Britain in the 1840s had accepted these radical demands?

Could women have had the vote a lot sooner than they did? Granting all men the vote in the 1840s may have made the system more tolerant a lot sooner. A number of women were very active within the Chartist movement, some founding female Chartist associations as well as attending rallies, demonstrations and raising funds.

Would the reforms have meant the birth of a political party representing the working classes a lot sooner? Due to the fact that there were a lot more people voting, more MPs would have been needed. The stipulation of payment for MPs would have meant that working class men, and women, could afford to forge a political career, meaning it was no longer reserved for the landed classes. Therefore, could the birth of a labour party have come around a lot sooner?

These questions would all have meant dramatic implications to the political, social and economic landscape in Britain and in turn would have changed our history as we know it today. The class system may have been very different. Issues of equality could easily have been reversed- would the suffragettes have ever existed? Would Emily Wilding Davison have thrown herself under the King’s horse at Epsom? The implications of accepting the Chartist reforms in the 1840s would have been far-reaching. There are many more possible scenarios, and these questions will be asked during our Museums at Night event at PHM on Thursday 15 May, hope to see you there!

Add your answers below or come and discuss at our Museums at Night: What if…? event on Thursday 15 May, 5.00pm – 8.00pm

What if….the suffragettes didn’t get the vote?

On Thursday 15 May, the PHM will explore alternative histories for Museums at Night. Join our hypothetical tour guides as they weave tall tales and ask you to imagine infinite possibilities of what might have been.  In a series of blog posts before the event we’ll be featuring questions so you can swot up on your hypothetical history and add your own alternatives.  On the night we’ll subvert our timeline with your suggestions. In the first blog, our Head of Collections and Engagement, Louise Sutherland asks What if… the suffragettes didn’t get the vote?

We’ve all heard the word Suffragette, most of us know that it’s primarily about women and their fight to get the vote and some of us will know that most UK based suffragette activity took place before World War I. There is a fair bit of talk about 2018 at the moment and its place within British democratic history, not least through PHM’s Wonder Women programme. In 2018 it will be 100 years since women over 30, who fulfilled certain criteria, were eligible to vote. Full enfranchisement on equal terms with men took another 10 years to 1928 and the voting age was lowered to all adults over the age of 21.

What if… this cat didn’t get to wear this incredible hat?

In February 1918, the Representation of the People Act (or the Fourth Reform Act) was passed through British Parliament. It gave voting rights to men (all men, regardless of background) as long as they were over the age of 21 and resident in their constituency. Women over 30 now qualified to vote, but additionally they had to meet one of the following specific conditions; that they were either a member, or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner or a graduate voting in a university constituency. At this point women now accounted for 43% of the voting electorate.

The national women’s suffrage movement started with the formation of National Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1872; clearly activities and groups existed before this, women had been excluded from voting in the Great Reform Act in 1832, but this is the campaign really making its mark on the national stage. Early campaigning was on the whole peaceful and the militant tactics that many suffragettes are remembered for coincided with the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1905. Hunger strikes occurred from 1909 onwards and Emily Wilding Davison’s death at Epsom took place in June 1913.

But what if?
What if the suffragettes had not be partially enfranchised in 1918? What if they were still vote-less?
What if there had been a return to the militant tactics seen before the war? What if tactics became even more militant? What would the more pacifist arms of the movement have done?
What could this have looked like? How would this have affected Britain?
Most suffragette campaigning stopped at the outbreak of war in 1914. In 1918 following peace there were more women in the country than men as a direct consequence of the war. Women’s networks still existed and the mothballed coordinated approach so expertly managed by the different societies would have been easy to kick-start again. The frustration at being unable to vote, coupled with the successes of the franchise campaign in other countries, would have been a bitter pill to swallow.
What do you think would have happened? How you have felt as a member of one of these women’s organisations and your demands for the vote had gone unanswered? What would you have done?

Add your answers below or come and discuss at our Museums at Night: What if…? event on Thursday 15 May, 5.00pm – 8.00pm

Student Ideas Matter

Students from the University of Central Lancashire have been working with PHM over the past few months on the Student Ideas Matter project. Here, they tell us a bit about what they’ve been up to…

Blog 1The People’s History Museum (PHM) is now showing a collection of pictures from our student campaign ‘Student Ideas Matter’. The display features a number of students, all from the Lancashire area, sharing their ‘ideas worth fighting for’. Come along to the museum, to see the photos in the foyer and Left Bank Café.

The display is a result of a partnership between PHM and the University of Central Lancashire. PHM kindly offered to collaborate with our group of PR students in September 2013, to offer practical work experience for us all.

Since then, we’ve been immersed in conversation with students throughout the Lancashire area. We’ve been visiting Student Unions over the past month, collecting students’ ‘ideas worth fighting for’. There was a great response! Blog (4)

Students from UCLan, Salford and MMU were excited to share their views. We collected a wealth of ideas, along with photos of the students. Ideas ranged from lower tuition fees, to free access to land and rivers. Overall, we talked to around 500 students throughout our three visits. Many were delighted to hear of the museum and its efforts to reach out to students.

‘Student Ideas Matter’ was essentially an Instagram photo competition, with the best ideas being chosen for display in People’s History Museum. The winners have been chosen and they are up for everyone to see! They will be up on display in PHM’s foyer until 30th April.

The campaign was designed with the museum’s values in mind; democracy, equality, peace and welfare all being at the centre of the ideas. The UCLan PR consultancy planned ‘Student Ideas Matter’ from day one, and all ideas were our own. We are all very proud of what we’ve achieved, and thankful to PHM for giving us the opportunity. But the show goes on! We’re continuing to work on the project until May, and hope to leave PHM with improved student relationships.

So, if you want to continue the conversation, use the hashtag #PHMStudentIdeas on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. We’ll be looking out for you!

Come and find out what matters to us students. We will fight for our ideas to be heard.

 

We hope to see you there,

Emma R., Bernie, Fiona, Greta and Emma U.

(UCLan Student Team)

People’s History Museum exceeds annual target of 100,000 visitors!

1 & 2 March, Play Your Party @ People's History MuseumWe are all really excited at the museum to announce that we achieved over 100,000 visitors in 2013/14. Four years since the museum re-opened after its capital redevelopment in 2010, the museum has seen visitors grow and grow each year from around 25,000 before our new building was opened to 108,600 in the last year!

The museum continues to attract a mix of visitors with 50% of people visiting coming from Greater Manchester, 30% from across the UK and 15% international tourists. We work hard to promote the museum far and wide and to provide services and activities for local residents and for visitors to the city region.

And all these extra visitors are also donating to the museum and spending money in our shop and cafe – with March 2014 seeing the highest ever amount received in our donations boxes and the highest ever amount spent in our shop.

Thank you to everyone who has visited and supported the museum this year!

We look forward to welcoming and working with even more of you in 2014/15 – please do come along and see what we have to offer at the People’s History Museum.

As the National Museum of Democracy – we are the Home of Ideas Worth Fighting For and a place to explore the extraordinary achievements of ordinary people who have changed the world we live in today…

A Truly Insightful Experience by Katherine Mycock

Katherine Mycock, a former placement student at our Labour History Archive and Study Centre, reflects on her work over the past few weeks…

Given the task of securing a work experience placement as part of my undergraduate History degree with the University of Exeter, I set about researching numerous institutional archives, museums and heritage sites. However, it was the focus on providing the working class people a voice that really drew me to the Labour History Archive, already of personal interest to me; I decided that the archive was where I wanted to be.

Based at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, the archive is home to over 80,000 photographs and an impressive range of documents from the political wing of the Labour movement through to leftwing pressure groups and extensive personal papers of radical politicians and activists.

Having been fortunate enough to have spent the last week in the archive surrounded by such fascinating history, I have truly gained an experience that I shall never forget. Working alongside Julie Parry (Archivist), Darren Treadwell (Archive Assistant) and the team of volunteers I have gained a most wonderful and valuable insight into the inner workings of the archive.

I have certainly been kept busy throughout the week with various interesting and practical tasks; from endeavouring to investigate and carry out enquiries for members of the public to sorting and re-filing an array of documents from different sources. I even got to wear the white gloves that feature in BBC programs!

I found working with the photo archive the most fascinating area of all; a photo really does speak a thousand words. Working with the photographs I found myself on more Archive placement 2than one occasion getting lost in the lives of those featured in the image, although time consuming such identification with the people of the past has inspired me to go further in this field of public history.

This week has also highlighted the dedication and commitment of those involved in the running and maintenance of archives. Archives are undoubtedly a ‘Labour’ of love; from the time consuming nature of cataloguing to the devotion of creating an accessible space which allows members of the public to utilise the services and information on offer- the labour archive certainly provides Manchester and indeed the country with some such fantastic services.

Working in the archive has provided such a great foundation of knowledge and experience in the area that I urge you, if you are interested in the working class people of Britain or fancy an eye opening experience to visit both the Labour History Archive and the People’s History Museum.