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Popular Politics and Popular Culture in the Age of the Masses

Studies in Lancashire and the North West of England, 1880s to 1930s


Jeffrey Hill

The book is a selection of essays from the author’s work since the early 1980s. It presents an analysis of political and cultural trends based upon a series of case studies drawn from the North West of England, covering mainly the years between the Third Reform Act (1884) and the outbreak of the Second World War. The region was a heavily industrialized one, seen by many as in the vanguard of changes that gave rise to what is often referred to as ‘modern’ society. In politics the emergence in North West England of a new labour consciousness is plainly evident, but so too is the survival and adaptation of older political allegiances, notably popular Toryism. The region is also renowned in cultural terms for the emergence of modern sport, examined here in relation to both association football and cricket. Keenly aware of the general political, social and cultural developments in Britain and elsewhere during these years, the author is also alert to their impact in particular localities. The theme of locality has been a recurring one in the author’s research, and the composition of this book reflects his changing approaches to it and to other, related issues of identity.
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Chapter Four: Manchester and Salford Politics and the Early Development of the Independent Labour Party


← 72 | 73 → CHAPTER FOUR

The grass-roots activities of the Independent Labour Party have been the subject of increased scrutiny from historians over the past few years.1 Consequently we can now be a little surer about the contribution of the party to the development of an independent labour movement in Britain at the end of the nineteenth century, though with every fresh case study a different local strategy seems to come to light. The one outstanding profile in this field is the closely observed account of the ILP in Bradford by J. Reynolds and K. Laybourn, who identify several key features in the party’s growth in that city, notably the reformist nature of ILP socialism and the close associations with local trade unionism. ‘From the outset’, they tell us, ‘Bradford trade unionism and the Bradford ILP were seen as two aspects of a single homogeneous labour movement aimed at the emancipation of the working class from poverty and exploitation.’2 But how far this pattern of development was repeated elsewhere is a different matter. David Rubinstein’s account of the ILP’s intervention in the Barnsley ← 73 | 74 → by-election of 1897, for example, reveals that the ILP in this area did not take up a Bradford-style policy of labour alliance until the late 1890s, and suggests that this was the case far the ILP as a whole.3 Yet studies of the party’s activities on the other side of the Pennines indicate a different story still. N. Reid’s short essay on the ILP...

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