Scottish Labour History Society Newsletter

September 2023

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Please Promote the Ian MacDougall Essay Prize 2023/4
The Scottish Labour History Society (SLHS) has established the Ian MacDougall Essay Prize with a threefold purpose:
*   to honour the memory of Dr Ian MacDougall (1933-2020), founding secretary of the Scottish Labour History Society and the Scottish Working People’s History Trust;
*   to encourage the finest standards of scholarship amongst undergraduate students in the field of labour history in Scotland;
*   to promote the study and recording of labour and popular history in Scotland.
The prize will be awarded annually, the winner to receive: [i] a cash prize of £400; [ii] publication of the winning essay in Scottish Labour History; [iii] one year’s free subscription to the Scottish Labour History Society, including a subscription to Scottish Labour History. A runner-up prize of £100 will be awarded where deemed appropriate. This, and other entries of sufficient quality, may be invited to publish in Scottish Labour History and, if so, will receive one year’s free subscription. The essay prize is open to anyone currently registered for a first degree in Britain or abroad, or to anyone who has completed such a degree no earlier than February 2023. Submissions should be 4,500-5,000 words in length, including footnotes and references. The deadline for submissions is 31 January 2024. Full details and an entry form are attached below and are also available on the SLHS website at….

Oral History and the Miners’ Strike
Newly out is SLHS member, Professor Robert Gildea’s Backbone of the Nation, a new history of the 1984/5 Miners’ Strike, based on oral testimonies from miners and miners’ families in the coalfields of Fife, County Durham, Yorkshire, the East Midlands and Kent. The ‘backbone’ refers to the miners as representatives of the organised working class, and the title comes from a Fifeshire miner, Thomas Watson, whose father coined the phrase. The book is a reminder of what has been lost in terms of the ‘organised working class’, and the profound shift there has been over succeeding years to the ‘disorganised capitalism’ of zero-hours contracts and the precariat, backed up by restrictive trade union legislation, clampdowns on protesting and the demise of much of the labour movement, as a result of deliberate and wilful Conservative Government policy, not to say ‘class war’. The book is available at a discount on the publisher’s price of £25.00 via the Guardian newspaper bookshop at

Free book on Cold War history
Drawing on archival material, Anti-Communism in Britain During the Early Cold War: A Very British Witch Hunt by Matthew Gerth demonstrates that while British policymakers and politicians sought to differentiate their anti-communist activity from the US hysteria, they were often keen to conduct their own witch-hunts. Through analysing how British anti-communism showed itself in state policies, political rhetoric, party politics and the trade union movement, it argues that an overreaction to communism took place. The book describes a nation at war with a political ideology and willing to use a variety of measures to disrupt or eradicate its influence. More at…

To Begin the World Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine
Ian Ruskin is performing To Begin the World Over Again, his one-man play about the life of Tom Paine in the Holyrood Room at the Scottish Parliament at 6pm on Tuesday 26 September. The performance, which is being sponsored by MSP Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock & Irvine Valley), is free of charge, but tickets should be obtained in advance via…. The play is also being performed at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews on Wednesday 27 September at 6.30pm. More information is available at