Labour History Review

Class without Conflict: Popular Political Continuity in Late Victorian Bristol, 1867–1900

Labour History Review (2017), 82, (2), 91–117.

Abstract

This article incorporates the political practice of working-class radicalism into the wider evolution of labour politics in British society. Its chief focus is upon the political language, culture and ideology of working-class activists in a provincial Victorian city – Bristol – between 1867 and 1900. It considers the way working-class radical and labour activists articulated their understandings of ideology and the social order around them, and examines how these conceptions changed in response to wider political and industrial developments. Its central aim is to demonstrate that, contrary to the prevailing historiography on nineteenth-century popular politics, a non-conflictual sense of class could play a crucial and consistent role in working-class radical and labour politics at a local level. For, in Bristol, working-class radicals and their labour successors did not see themselves as part of a trans-class movement of ‘the people’, but as organic representatives and spokespersons of ‘their class’. By engaging with the ongoing historiographical debates about continuity and change, this article suggests that there may be a place for class in the ‘continuity thesis’ of nineteenth-century popular politics.

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Author details

Kidd, Matthew