Union records

This guide was last updated in 2010

Strike records are fascinating social documents that can tell us an enormous amount about our ancestors’ working lives and personal circumstances.

The best surviving and most detailed example is also the most easily accessible.

In July 1888, 200 women workers at the Bryant and May match factory at Bow in the East End of London walked out after three of their number were dismissed for complaining about their working conditions. Their plight – and eventual victory – became a Victorian cause célèbre.

Every page of the strike register which lists payments made to the women while they were on strike can be seen at the Union Makes Us Strong website.

Many strikes will, of course, have been documented in trade union circulars, reports and journals at the time. Typically, union head offices will have been concerned at the time to explain the dispute to members not involved, raise money for those on strike, and justify their own actions.

In addition to the collections at Warwick and the Working Class Movement Library, there is an extensive range of union publications in the TUC Library Collections at London Metropolitan University.

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