Labour and the Caucus

Working-Class Radicalism and Organised Liberalism in England, 1868–1888

James Owen

£75.00
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ISBN: 9781781385654

Publication: February 17, 2014

Series: Studies in Labour History 3

Labour and the Caucus provides a new, innovative pre-history of the Labour party. In the two decades following the Second Reform Act there was a sustained and concerted campaign for working-class parliamentary representation from a range of labour organisations to an extent that was hitherto unseen in British political history. The franchise revolution of 1867 and the controversial introduction of more sophisticated forms of electoral machinery, which became known as the ‘caucus’, raised serious questions not only for a labour movement seeking to secure political representation but also for a Liberal party that had to respond to the pressures of mass politics. Through a close examination of the interactions between labour and the ‘caucus’ from the 1868 general election to Keir Hardie’s independent labour candidature in 1888, this book provides a comprehensive and multi-layered picture of the troubled relationship between working-class radicals and organised Liberalism. The electoral strategy of labour candidates, the links between urban and rural radicalism, the impact of the National Liberal Federation, the influence of American and Irish politics on the labour movement, the revival of socialism, and the contested identity of a ‘Labour party’ are all examined from fresh perspectives. In doing so, this book challenges the existing teleological assumptions about the rise of independent labour, and explores the questions that remain about how working-class radicals and Liberals shared and negotiated power, and how this relationship changed over time.

Dr James Owen is a Research Fellow on the History of Parliament, House of Commons, 1832–1945 project.

Acknowledgements Abbreviations Introduction 1. The struggle for political representation: labour candidates and the Liberal party, 1868–1876 2. Activism, identity and networks: urban and rural working-class radicalism, 1868–1874 3. Labour’s response to the caucus: class, America and language, 1877–1885 4. Tensions and fault lines: the Lib-Lab MPs, the wider labour movement, and the role of Irish nationalism, 1885–1888 5. Rethinking the ‘revival of socialism’: socialists, Liberals and the caucus, 1881–1888 Epilogue Appendix I Appendix II Bibliography Index

James Owen re-examines the relationship between the Labour Party and Liberalism, with particular attention to the language used during campaigns.

  Year's Work in English Studies

[By consulting widely and deeply unpublished manuscripts] Owen gives properly wait to [engaging] analysis of the connections between the linguistic, and the political and cultural environments.
William C. Lubenow   Journal of Liberal History

'...a splendid piece of meticulous historical scholarship casting new light on a pivotal and often neglected period of British political and working-class history.'


  American Historical Review

This is a well researched and important study ... deserves to be widely read.
  Chartist, No 268

Important and fresh, this book presents new material on the pre-history of the Labour party, bridging a gap between the years of the Reform League in the 1860s and the so-called revival of socialism in the 1880s.
Miles Taylor  
Institute of Historical Research, London

Format: Ebook

ISBN: 9781781385654

Publication: February 17, 2014

Series: Studies in Labour History 3

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