Labour’s Voice in Europe, by James Darby, Project Archivist

I have just finished cataloguing four archive collections relating to the Labour Party in Europe. These include the papers of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) and the personal papers of David Candler, Ron Leighton and Colin Beever; three politicians linked with the pro and anti Common Market wings of the party during the 1970s and 80s.

Labour Movement for Europe report

Funding for the cataloguing of these collections has been gratefully received from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, a grant scheme made available by several funding trusts and administered by The National Archives. The project began in April 2016 and involved the box listing of 109 boxes from the EPLP collection, 18 from the Candler collection, 16 from Colin Beevor and 9 from Ron Leighton.

EPLP boxes

EPLP boxes in strongroom

Once box listed the collection had to be placed into suitable series and following this the rather long and arduous task of reboxing all the material in the correct order.

These collections include correspondence and reports of the British Labour Group in Europe and material relating to pro and anti-EEC organisations such as the Labour Movement for Europe and Common Market Safeguards Campaign. Researchers can view the catalogues on the museum’s website and use the collections by booking an appointment in the archive reading room.


People Make Their Own History

The museum is delighted to be hosting more WEA courses in the spring of 2015. You can find out more about the People Make Their Own History course, in this guest blog from WEA tutor Mark Krantz, who is leading the course.

Peterloo image from Ed Hall RMT banner exhibited at PHMHalf the population of Manchester took to the streets in August 1819. They were joined by protesters from the towns of Oldham, Middleton, Stockport and beyond. Sixty thousand people came to hear the greatest ‘orator’ in the land, Henry Hunt.

Their demands were that towns like Manchester should have a representative in parliament – and that working people should have the vote. They were brutally attacked. Peaceful protesters were cut down by the Yeomanry Guard, armed with sharpened sabres. 18 were killed and over six hundred injured. What became known across the world as the Peterloo Massacre was the first protest movement, the dawn of the working class movement. Those that marched that day ‘made their own history’.Henry Hunt jug displayed at  PHM gallery

Protesters today stand in a long tradition of struggle that started at Peterloo.

The ten week course People Make Their Own History is a learning experience from Workers’ Educational Association in association with the People’s History Museum. Actors perform as Living History characters in the PHM galleries to bring people like the Chartist William Cuffay and the Suffragette Hannah Mitchell to life.

Examine the archives at the PHM  (2)Visits to the Labour History Archive & Study Centre enable students to examine original documents and artefacts. We will cover Peterloo and the Chartists; the struggles over jobs, against Fascism, and for access the countryside in the 1930s; fighting Section 28 and for LGBT rights in the 1980s; to Stop the War, and the struggle against the Bedroom Tax today. You can find more details about the WEA course on the People’s History Museum’s website. To enrol go to the WEA website. This course runs for ten weeks, starting Thursday 15 January 2015, 1.00pm – 3.00pm.Print

Things you find when doing a bit of research…

A guest post from volunteer Amber Greenall-Heffernan 

I am a third year History, Museums & Heritage student from the University of Central Lancashire, currently volunteering at the People’s History Museum. For the past couple of months, I have been doing research for the upcoming exhibition, Election! Britain Votes, looking at a wide range of election material such as posters, leaflets and manifestos. I am also currently working with artist Alex Gardner, showing him the most interesting and visually appealing items from the election material in the Labour History Archive to inspire the design of the exhibition.

Whilst doing this research I have come across some very interesting items. These are my favourites so far:

  • Equality of Sacrifice poster (1931)


Equality of Sacrifice poster (1931)This Labour Party poster criticises the 1931 National Government and their ‘Equality of Sacrifice’ policy. This policy was based on the ideas of John Stuart Mill, who believed that tax laws are fair as long as they are applied to everyone equally. The cartoon, by J. F. Horrabin was created in 1929, at a time of economic depression in Britain. Each man on the ladder has a different income, and as each one steps down a rung, the unemployed man at the bottom of the ladder becomes submerged in water, suggesting that the equality of sacrifice would affect the poorest the most.

Mend That Hole poster (1951)Mend That Hole poster (1951)
This Conservative Party poster created in 1951, shows a purse with coins falling out of the hole at the bottom of it. The purse has ‘Cost of Living’ written on it, which implies that the cost of living is increasing and that people are losing money because of it. This poster is particularly interesting as it is not far from issues that affect us today, such as the current debate about implementing a living wage due to rising cost of living standards.

Conservatives and Labour 3D booklet (1950)Conservatives and Labour 3D booklet (1950)Conservatives and Labour 3D booklet (1950)
My favourite item so far, and arguably the most engaging, is this 3D booklet which was created by the Conservative Party in 1950. The booklet folds so that when you put the blue filter over the text, it lists the successes of the Conservative government and what they aim to do in the future, and when you choose the red filter it shows the failures of the Labour government.

Election! Britain votes: Call for participation

Next February, the People’s History Museum will embark on a new type of exhibition. Election! Britain Votes, will be the most experimental and contemporary show PHM has ever programmed. It will explore historical elections using our wide collection; explain how and why a nation goes to vote and what the importance is to society today.

Card001We will chart historical elections including all the memorable moments which represented a general election from 1900. As the home of democracy, the People’s History Museum is best placed to tell this history, and our collection will take our visitors on a whirlwind tour of posters, pamphlets and pipes (Harold Wilson’s pipe, to be specific) from 1900 to 2010. In each of these elections we’ll also chart key facts and issues including the winners, losers, male to female ratio of MPs and of course all the moments you may remember.

In the second part of the exhibition, we’ll also attempt to explain how the life of a vote works. Elections and all the rules and processes behind them can be confusing so this exhibition will break down the life of the election from it being called to the result being announced, explaining all the things which make a general election happen.

Finally, we hope to create a space which will reflect the changing contemporary landscape and will chart the 2015 general election as it unfolds. This area will be fluid; it will evolve with the debate and will provide an interactive space in which to connect with politics today. We are looking for people to come and use this space to debate, chat, hold a public meeting or run a session. The space will display posters and leaflets as they are distributed throughout the UK and will work as a space to reflect as well as engage. If you would be interested in using this exhibition to evoke debate and conversation amongst a group, discuss how to get issues you care about on the agenda, or talk about the election may affect your life, get in touch with the museum at .

Responding to Discrimination? The Labour Party, Post-war Immigration and the politics of Race.

Today we have a guest post from Marc Collinson, a PhD researcher currently using the Labour History Archive and Study Centre at PHM

LHASC @ People's History Museum 003Originally from the Calder Valley, I am a self-funded PhD student from Bangor University, undertaking research with support from the Society for the Study of Labour History. My research is looking into the impact of immigration and racial tension on the Labour Party both organisationally, on policy formulation and on its electoral performance. This project is focused on the political dynamics of the Labour Party, and the degree to which policy development at the Party’s London Headquarters reflected the opinions of the party and voters in provincial constituencies. From the late 1950s, mass immigration had a major impact on British, predominantly urban, society. This caused problems for the Labour Party, not least because it claimed to represent a white working-class that often felt threatened and angered by immigration. Areas like the Manchester, Merseyside and declining northern mill towns like Blackburn, Batley and Oldham saw racist agitation from an early date. These regions were also a stronghold of the populist ‘right-wing’ of the Labour Party and insufficient attention has been given to the responses of these Labour members to immigration. The membership of the National Front was often suggested to have been formed from these traditional Labour ranks.

LHASC @ People's History Museum 004
This study will utilize archives based at Labour History Archive in Manchester. These include the papers of leading politicians, minutes and memoranda of party committees, policy documents and newspapers. I have previously utilised the archives during Master and Undergraduate research and am always impressed by the easy availability of material, and the knowledgeable help given by Julie, Darren and the Archive Team

Employment & Unemployment: Have Your Say

work in progressAs part of our Work in Progress exhibition researcher Bethan Foulkes will be inviting visitors to go ‘behind the scenes’ and find out the processes of academic research as she explores the comparisons between historic and contemporary experiences of unemployment. Whilst she’ll be hitting the books and delving into the museum’s collections, we want you to come along and have your say and share your experiences.

  • Have you struggled to find work during the recession?
  • Do you feel exploited by unpaid internships?
  • Are you campaigning for a Living Wage?
  • Do you have any other experiences, thoughts or opinions you want to share?

Add your comments below, or pop in and tell your story.

Bethan will be doing her Live Research on Tues 19 & Wed 20 August 11.00am – 4.00pm.  She’ll present her findings during a free public event on Thurs 21 August 1.00pm – 3.00pm.

My week at the People’s History Museum

A guest post by work experience placement Matthew Heywood

Nottingham City NALGO banner

As a student entering my second year of college and with university applications coming up, work experience is a very useful process to get involved in. And with a desire to take up a degree in history, the People’s History Museum was the ideal location for a relevant, engaging and insightful work placement.

During my week here I have taken part in many of the activities which constitute working life at the People’s History Museum. These include making a display for the ENGAGE 25th anniversary meeting, photographing objects for the archives and evaluating visitor comments.
A notable experience was researching a banner from the 1989 NALGO strike in Nottingham, which took place in protest against the anti-union actions of Margaret Thatcher’s government, to produce a label for the 2015 banner display.

My week here at the People’s History Museum has proved highly insightful and demonstrated the hard work and dedication that goes into its day-to-day functioning and maintenance. For anyone looking for work experience, interested in social history or curious about how a museum really works, a work placement at the People’s History Museum is something I would highly recommend.