Labour history holdings - research collections at Glasgow Caledonian University

Labour history holdings - research collections at Glasgow Caledonian University

Carole McCallum, University Archivist, Glasgow Caledonian University

(First published in Dunaskin News, April 2004)

The front cover of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) souvenir, entitled 'Empire Exhibition Glasgow, 1938.  (From the STUC Archive. Courtesy of Research Collections @ Glasgow Caledonian University. Copyright reserved.)  
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Research Collections at Glasgow Caledonian University includes Archives, The Centre for Political Song, Heatherbank Museum of Social Work and Special Collections. The four parts of Research Collections have been drawn together to act as a cross-domain unit to enhance our range of user services, and to maximise team working and collaboration.

Across the four sections we have numerous labour history holdings and material relating to the history of the “working class”. This brief introduction highlights some of these collections but is by no means a complete summary of holdings in this subject area. The links will offer greater detail and contact information.



The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC)

This Archive dates back to 1897 and the formation of the STUC. It documents the STUC's holistic approach to trade unionism and offers an insight into the struggles, successes, challenges, changes and paths taken by them and their membership, including involvement in the many major Scottish labour movement events of the 20th century. It is updated annually and holdings include General Council minutes and papers, STUC annual reports, congress programmes, background papers, subject files, campaign material, correspondence, publications and audio-visual items.

  Photograph of delegates attending the STUC Founding Congress, March 1897.  (From the STUC Archive. Courtesy of Research Collections @ Glasgow Caledonian University.  Copyright reserved.) 
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The Communist Party of Great Britain: Scottish Committee Archive and the Willie Thompson Collection 

Front cover of the Scottish Marxist publication, summer 1977 edition.  (From the Willie Thompson Collection. Courtesy of Research Collections @ Glasgow Caledonian University. Copyright reserved.) 
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The Communist Party of Great Britain: Scottish Committee Archive mainly dates from the 1960s onwards, although some earlier material from the 1940s and 1950s including Scottish congresses, education documentation and pamphlets do exist. This Archive goes hand in hand with the Willie Thompson Collection and this includes Willie’s personal papers as a CPGB member and political activist from 1962 to 1997. Both archives include committee minutes and papers, congress material, correspondence, background papers, subject files and numerous publications.


The Glasgow Caledonian Archive of the Troskyist Tradition

GCATT includes material relating to Trotsky, the Socialist Labour League, the Workers Revolutionary Party, and other earlier Trotskyist groups and political parties, with a definite international thread running through it. Both English and foreign language material has been identified along with a vast selection of international newspapers, correspondence, newsletters, pamphlets, journals, photographs, briefing documents and audio visual material. Access arrangements are in the process of being identified although it should be noted that the Archive will not be fully processed in the immediate future.  

The Centre for Political Song

The Centre for Political Song, in its collecting and research activities, ranges across the political spectrum from far right to far left. Material (real and virtual) is gathered as appropriate: from the bothy ballad to punk rock; from political party rally to street demonstration; from the pantomime, the folk club, the rap artist, the opera and beyond. The Centre’s collection policy is both eclectic and international. In the field of labour history, the Centre's Development Officer has highlighted the following to whet the appetite - 
  • A Pleasant Change from Politics: Music and the British Labour Movement between the Wars by Duncan Hall, New Clarion, 2001.
  • American Labor Songs of the Nineteenth Century by Philip Sheldon Foner, University of Illinois Press, 1975.
  • For Democracy, Workers, and God: Labor Song-Poems and Labor Protest, 1865-1895 by Clark D Halker, University of Illinois Press, c.1991.
  • Labour Party Song Book: Labour Anthems, Traditional Songs & Community Favourites, Labour Publications Department, 1955.
  • People’s Songs: Songs of Labor and the American People. Second Anniversary, 1948.
  • Red Clydeside - Alistair Hulett and Dave Swarbrick, Red Rattler, 2002 (Audio CD).
  • Salute to Labor Day: Songs of American Workers, The Worker, 1957.
  • Socialist & Labour Song Book, Twentieth Century Press, [1912].
  • Songs for Labour Gatherings, Labour Publications Department, [1940s].
  • Songs of Life and Labour by John Stewart.
  • Songs of the British Radical and Labour Movement by John Miller, Communist Party, 1963.
  • Songs of the Labour Movement by John Miller, History Group of the Communist Party, 1963.
  • Twelve Labour Choruses, ILP Publication Department, [n.d.].
  • Working and Union Songs - Keith and Rusty McNeil (Audio CD).
  • Workers Rise: Labor in the Spotlight - New York City Labor Chorus (Audio CD).

    Heatherbank Museum of Social Work

    The British Workman magazine started in 1855 and was published by Partridge and Co in London. The aim was to 'promote the health, wealth and happiness of the working classes' and it was broadly both Temperance and Evangelistic. It was 'dedicated to the industrial classes' and has been included here to show another type of literature provided for the working man and woman. The magazines are rich in illustrations. The Heatherbank Museum of Social Work holds a run of the annual bound copies of the British Workman from 1855 to 1892, excluding the years 1870, 73, 76, 79, 81, 87 and 89. It also holds the British Workwoman annual copies for 1863, 1864, 1865, 1869, and 1881.

    Special Collections

    There are many Special Collections which include material based on the theme of labour history. The largest of these is The Gallacher Memorial Library which was founded in December 1968 in Gallacher House, Glasgow, as a tribute to the life and work of William Gallacher, who had made such an outstanding contribution to the Communist Party and to the trade union and labour movement. The Library, based on Gallacher’s own collection, grew rapidly as fellow comrades and friends donated books, pamphlets, papers, ephemera, posters and photographs. It also houses some CPGB archival material. Some of the many topics covered by the library include William Gallacher, John Maclean, Red Clydeside, the Spanish Civil War, biographies and reminiscences, the Communist Party, the Irish labour movement, trade union history, women workers and suffrage, and workers’ literature, poetry and songs.

    The Norman and Janey Buchan Collection is a collection of several thousand books and pamphlets mostly covering the period 1910-1980. Although mainly labour movement related, the range of subjects covered represents the eclectic interests of the former owners. Areas of interest in this field are the labour movement and trade unions, radical press, Red Clydeside and Glasgow activists, and the Spanish Civil War.   

      Photograph of William Gallacher.  (From the Gallacher Memorial Library. Courtesy of Research Collections @ Glasgow Caledonian University. Copyright reserved.)    
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    Other Special Collections with a labour history content are The Caledonian Collection, The Sandy Hobbs Collection, The William Kemp Collection, The Norrie McIntosh Collection, and The James and Martin Milligan Collection. Special Collections subscribe to a number of periodical publications. Most, but by no means all, of them are political and/or historical, with again labour history content. Many of these have their own web sites and these sites often include indexes to authors, articles etc. published in the periodical. Work has been done to improve access to many of these journals on the Special Collections journals page.

    From this brief introduction it is very obvious that the labour history researcher would do well to contact Research Collections. If we have managed to catch your attention, then we look forward to welcoming you at some time in the future.