Scottish Labour History Society Newsletter

February 2023

Blog category
Opening text

Ian MacDougall Memorial Lecture at NLS in April
Following the death of SLHS founder Ian MacDougall in 2020, SLHS, with the Scottish Working People's History Trust and National Library of Scotland (NLS), has inaugurated an annual Ian MacDougall Memorial Lecture. The second lecture, to be given by Jim Phillips, Professor of Economic & Social History at Glasgow University, has been set for 20 April 2023 at the NLS in Edinburgh. Professor Phillips will explain how oral history was central to the campaign for justice which began after the 1984-5 miners’ strike. Scottish strikers were twice as likely to be arrested and three times more likely to be sacked than strikers in England & Wales. The interviews with activists gained traction in the 2010s, and the Scottish government instituted a review of how the strike was policed. Jim’s research and strikers’ testimonies influenced the review’s recommendation: a pardon for those convicted of public order offences while defending jobs and communities. New interviews with former strikers, plus social media videos, then helped extend the pardon in the Miners’ Strike Bill, passed in the Scottish Parliament and confirmed in law in summer 2022.

Remembering Mick McGahey: Miner, communist and trade union leader
SLHS member and Glasgow University academic Ewan Gibbs has a (free to download) article in Issue 23 of Twentieth Century Communism, on former NUM president Michael (‘Mick’) McGahey. Born in 1925 in the Lanarkshire mining town of Shotts, McGahey died in 1999, the year the Scottish Parliament, which he played a leading role in bringing about, was established. He came to public prominence as President of the National Union of Mineworkers Scottish Area (NUMSA) and a public face of British miners’ industrial action in the 1970s/80s. The article is based on trade union and archive records, and oral testimonies recorded with McGahey’s comrades, including his son, NUMSA officials and senior Scottish Communists. It first assesses the foundation of his world view in the context of class struggle, personal and family hardship, and his entry into the mining industry. The second section covers his evolution from colliery activist to national trade union leader, noting his willingness to build pragmatic broad-left alliances between Labour and Communist affiliated miners. Section three explores the connection between his Communism and support for a Scottish Parliament. The article is at

Still seeking early SLHS journals
The Society has recently completed a reorganisation of its back issues and publications and is still looking to complete a full archive set of SLHS journals. We are missing Nos 1-3, 5 and 7-9, dating from the years 1969 to 1978. If anyone has copies of these issues which they no longer require or knows the whereabouts of any of them, please contact the Society via the email address below.

An International Perspective on Municipal Socialism
Claiming the City: A Global History of Workers’ Fight for Municipal Socialism by US labour historian Shelton Stromquist offers an account of the how and why, after 1890, cities became crucibles for municipal socialism. Drawing on cities as diverse as Broken Hill, Christchurch, Malmö, Bradford, Stuttgart, Vienna and Hamilton (Ohio), the book shows how a new urban politics arose. Cities in the C19, long governed by propertied elites, were transformed by industrialisation and mass migration, fundamentally changing their physical and social fabric. Amidst strikes and faced with epidemics, foul streets, unsafe water, bad housing, little economic security and few public amenities, urban workers invented a politics to democratise cities and reclaim the wealth they created. Out this month, the book can be ordered at

Socialist History Society Online Public Meeting
Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life after Consumerism at 7pm on 23 February, will be based on Greg Claeys’s book, Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism. (2022), which examines the ways the history of utopian thought, from its origins in ancient Sparta and ideas of the Golden Age through to today, can offer moral and imaginative guidance in the face of environmental catastrophe. Claeys argues that the utopian tradition, which has been critical of conspicuous consumption and luxurious indulgence, might light a path to a society that emphasises equality, sociability, and sustainability. The talk is free to attend but people need to register in advance via…