Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Buildings of the labour movement book review

Buildings of the labour movement 
Nick Mansfield 
Foreword by Tony Benn 
Published by English Heritage 

Interest in labour movement buildings has grown in recent years. This excellent book, written by the former director of the People’s History Museum in Manchester, is to be commended for bringing alive the built culture of the oldest labour movement in the world.

Although too many buildings have been lost over the years, there remains a range of communal buildings of the early 19th-century political radicals, Owenites and Chartists, through Arts and Crafts influenced socialist structures of the late nineteenth century. There are chapters associated with the hidden history of radical ex-servicemen, rural buildings such as the Burston Strike School and clubhouses of idealistic socialist cyclists. Buildings associated with key labour history events such as the Manchester Mechanics Institute, the birthplace of the TUC in 1855, are also included along with an outline of recent struggles to preserve buildings that stand as powerful symbols of a better future and working-class heroism. 

In the foreword, the late Tony Benn, wrote: ‘Though many buildings have been lost over the years, the book outlines the recent struggle for their preservation, and details many that can still be visited. The rich photographic records of the English Heritage Archive have been used to help trace some of what has been lost, and English Heritage should be congratulated for supporting this record of labour movement buildings. I am delighted to champion the project.’ 

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