The Lancashire Working Classes: C.1880-1930

The Lancashire Working Classes: C.1880-1930

The Lancashire Working Classes: C.1880-1930

The Lancashire Working Classes: C.1880-1930


'Overall, Griffiths has produced a significant and valuable addition to the ongoing discussion of working-class development, as well as an extensive survey of Lancashire working-class attitudes, activities and lifestyles. In so doing, he has extended, but not concluded, the ongoing debate.' -History'Extensive and meticulous examination of the Lancashire working class... an important and informative study.' -History'Original and compelling.' -Martin Pugh, BBC History Magazine'Griffiths marshalls an impressive range of documentary evidence to argue for the continuities of key aspects of working-class life over this fifty year period... a particularly interesting chapter on the labour market and the 'search for work'.' -English Historical Review'Gives a fascinating insight into the realities of working class life... incisive.' -Contemporary ReviewThis book explores the formation of working-class identities in the period 1880-1930, as reflected in changes in work and industrial relations, family life, patterns of saving, and changing political allegiances. Trevor Griffiths challenges the notion that the period witnessed the emergence of a more united sense of class among British workers. Instead, the picture emerges of a working class for whom the ties of work and neighbourhood counted for less than those of religion and nationality.


In the history of the British working class, the half-century from 1880 has acquired a particular significance. Within that period, it is argued, internal points of difference, bequeathed by the slow and uneven pace and incidence of economic change, became progressively less important as changes in material circumstances encouraged a growing recognition of interests and values held in common by people of similar economic standing. If the precise chronology of change remains open to debate, its outcome is less contested: a consciousness of a 'class in itself '. Various factors have been identified as contributing to this development. First, and in many accounts foremost, were changes in the world of work. the status of skilled labour came under sustained challenge from employers struggling with depressed profits and the growing problem of foreign competition. the most immediate threat was posed by technological innovation, which had the aim of reducing both the quantity and quality of labour inputs. Less obvious, but, in the view of many, of greater longterm significance, were changes in recruitment procedures which removed the supervisory role of skilled hands and transferred authority to management personnel. Reflecting greater uniformity in the work experience, trade-union organization, formerly the bedrock of craft privilege, expanded to encapsulate large sections of the industrial workforce.

Yet class was not simply formed at the point of production. Experiences beyond work, it is argued, also served to point up a common consciousness. One account emphasizes how British workers increasingly resided in stable urban neighbourhoods, in which middle-class influences were largely peripheral. Within what Miles and Savage have termed 'the workingclass city', a distinctive culture was nurtured, structured in part around

For E. J. Hobsbawm, the process was substantially complete by 1914, 'The Formation
of British Working-Class Culture' and 'The Making of the Working Class, 1870–1914', in
id., Worlds of Labour (1984), 176–213. Others see change as a product of the war years,
B. Waites, A Class Society at War: England, 1914–18 (Leamington Spa, 1987).

A. J. Reid, Social Classes and Social Relations in Britain, 1850–1914 (Basingstoke and
London, 1992), ch.3; M. Savage and A. Miles, The Remaking of the British Working Class,
1840–1940 (1994), 48–55.

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