Annual report of BUIRA History of IR Study Group



The BUIRA History of IR Study Group held three meetings this year, all well attended.


Our first seminar was Employment relations in the armed services: a historical perspective (17 March 2015) at the University of Westminster. Margaret Prior (doctoral teaching assistant, University of Plymouth) opened with a talk entitled A command under the guise of a command? Towards a labour history of the British armed forces, followed by Frank Tallett (former Head of School of Humanities, University of Reading) on Soldiering as work in early modern Europe. (c.15 participants)


Our second seminar was Trade union law today: does the past still rule us? (21 January 2016), also at the University of Westminster. Paul Smith (Honorary Research Fellow, Keele University) spoke on Labour under the law: a new law of combination, and master and servant, in twenty-first century Britain? followed by Adrian Williamson (barrister, University of Cambridge) on The Trade Unions Act 1927 revisited. (c.30 participants)

Our third event, which was jointly sponsored by BUIRA, Britain at Work and the Oral History Society, was an Oral Labour History Day held at the HQ of Unite the Union in central London on Saturday 14 May 2016, from 10.30 to 5.00pm. A record seventy people attended. This year we focused on the so-called ‘Winter of Discontent (1978/79)’. The day included round table introductions on the projects in which participants were involved, and their interest in oral labour history.


Following an introduction by Michael Gold and Gail Cartmail (Unite Assistant General Secretary), the opening address was given by Rodney Bickerstaffe (former General Secretary of NUPE, now Unison) who spoke on Lessons learnt, people remembered from the ‘winter of discontent’. Michael Gold chaired the round table and, after lunch, Helen Hague interviewed Mary Turner (former school meals worker and later GMB President). Nick Jones (former BBC labour correspondent) then gave a presentation on The media portrayal of trade union struggles 1978/79. Linda Clarke chaired the final session, a panel discussion on the ‘winter of discontent’. This included Joanna Bornat (oral historian), Sarah Boston historian and film maker), Eddie Jaggers (former NUPE Harrow branch shop steward), Keith Redwood (former Texaco UK employee) and Michael Walker (COHSE, now Unison). Ann Field closed the day with a round-up of the main themes covered over the day, which closed at 5.00pm.




Michael Gold

Linda Clarke

10 June 2016