The first World War was an important period in the history of the British trade union and labour movement. It is well known that at a national level the leaders of the trade unions were consulted by the government to a greater extent than ever before, and that the signing of the Treasury Agreements represented a recognition of their importance, and made them partners in the prosecution of the war. Labour Party leaders also became members of the administration, thus confirming once and for all that they were “fit to govern”. These were significant developments for the working class movement, but they did not take place without sharpened disagreements within the movement and the growth of increasingly radical political and social attitudes. The purpose of this article is to show that at a local level there were almost precisely parallel developments for the working class movement during the war years. There was a similar accession to power, if more limited, and to prestige in the local community, if often more grudgingly conceded. At the same time there was a growth of general disillusionment with the work which was undertaken, and by the end of the war, an increasingly militant attitude on trade union and general political questions.
* For help at various stages in the production of this article I would like to thank Dr R. Miliband, Mr H. Silver, Drs J. and A. Amsden, Mr H. Belton, and Dr J. E. Williams.