Workers of the Empire, Unite

BookWorkers of the Empire, Unite

Workers of the Empire, Unite

Radical and Popular Challenges to British Imperialism, 1910s-1960s

Studies in Labour History, 15


March 1st, 2021

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In most studies of British decolonisation, the world of labour is neglected, the key roles being allocated to metropolitan statesmen and native elites. Instead this volume focuses on the role played by working people, their experiences, initiatives and organisations, in the dissolution of the British Empire, both in the metropole and in the colonies. How central was the intervention of the metropolitan Left in the liquidation of the British Empire? Were labour mobilisations in the colonies only stepping stones for bourgeois nationalists? To what extent were British labour activists willing and able to form connections with colonial workers, and vice versa? Here are some of the complex questions on which this volume sheds new light. Though convergences were fragile and temporary, this book recapture the sense of uncertainty that accompanied the final decades of the British Empire, a period when radical minorities hoped that coordinated efforts across borders might lead not only to the destruction of the British Empire but to that of capitalism and imperialism in general. Exploiting rare primary sources and adopting a resolutely transnational approach, our collection makes an original contribution to both labour history and imperial studies.

'With excellent framing essays by the editors that enrich the discussion, connecting the multiple areas of new empirical inquiry to larger questions of historiography and deeper social context, this is the go-to text on the role of Labour and the Left within the politics of the British decolonization experience.'
Professor Leon Fink, Distinguished Emeritus Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

'Beliard and Kirk’s collection of essays on radical challenges to British imperialism provides a valuable series of case studies. [...] Some will not agree with all its judgements but its case studies, like Tom Sibley’s on Fava, throw light on how far the influence of Britain’s imperialist state penetrated all aspects of our society including the labour movement.'
John Foster, Morning Star

‘Workers of the Empire, Unite is a sophisticated and scholarly contribution to the ongoing process of what might be called decolonizing British labor history through excellent historical studies relating to British labor and decolonization.’
Christian Høgsbjerg, Journal of British Studies

Author Information

Yann Béliard is a Senior Lecturer in British Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3. Neville Kirk is Emeritus Professor of Labour and Social History at Manchester Metropolitan University. His publications include Labour and Society in Britain and the USA (1994), Comrades and Cousins (2003), Custom and Conflict in 'The Land of the Gael' (2007, 2009) and Labour and the Politics of Empire (2011, 2014). He is editor of Liverpool University Press's series Studies in Labour History and a member of the executive committee of the UK Society for the Study of Labour History.