Scottish Labour History Society Newsletter

April 2024

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Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture
This year’s Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Professor Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland, on Monday 29 April, from 6pm to 7.30pm, at the University of Glasgow in Room 745 of the James McCune Smith Building. In the lecture Professor McAleese will reflect on her personal memories of Donald Dewar, his legacy and her own within the realms of civic leadership, building bridges and social justice. Following the discussion, there will be an opportunity for questions from the audience. The event is free although places are limited, but people can register via eventbrite at Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture.

Final Reminder for the 2024 Ian MacDougall Memorial Lecture
The 2024 Ian MacDougall Memorial Lecture, on 4 April at the National Library of Scotland, will explore the lives of Peeblesshire textile workers and the process of telling their stories. Border Mills: Lives of Peeblesshire Textile Workers is a new book based on a series of oral history interviews the late Ian MacDougall made with mill workers from 1996 to 2004. Charting a period of immense change across all aspects of textile manufacturing in the Borders, the book documents the lives and work of a generation who lived through both World Wars in an industry in flux, with innovations in mechanised processes and fibres. Caroline Milligan, Researcher at the European Ethnological Research Centre, Edinburgh University, will discuss how her return to Ian’s research as editor, and recount the process of transforming a collection of oral history recordings from the archives into a publication. The book, published in collaboration with National Museums Scotland, will be available to purchase at the event. Following Caroline’s talk, The Mills of Tweedale Project will give a presentation on their new oral history project, which aims to preserve the contemporary history and heritage of the Tweeddale textile industry. Launched in March 2023, this is a partnership between Peebles Civic Society and Peebles Library, Museum and Gallery, the Innerleithen Community Trust and the Walkerburn Community Development Trust. Lecture tickets are bookable via… but some places are reserved for SLHS members. Contact Stewart Maclennan via to book a reserved SLHS place.

Energy Workers and the Transformation of Britain, late 1940s to mid-1990s
The Working Class Movement Library welcomes SLHS member Dr Ewan Gibbs to deliver the 2024 Frow Memorial Lecture, named after WCML founders, Eddie and Ruth Frow, whose passion for activism and working-class history laid the foundation for the WCML archive. The lecture – on Wednesday 1st May at 6.30pm – will demonstrate how the working class and labour movement were key to the transformation of Britain in the second half of the C20, by focusing on the central role of energy industry workers and trade unionists in broad-ranging processes of economic and political change. Developments in coal mining, conventional electricity, the nuclear project and the oil and gas sector reveal crucial dynamics. They illuminate the evolving balance of political power and important changes to the organisation of work in the private and public sectors. To book a place go to…

1930s Communism in Britain
Alan Campbell reports on two recent articles on the history of 1930s communism in Britain:
1. John McIlroy, ‘Stalin, the Comintern and the Popular Front in Britain, France and Spain, 1935–1939: Some Historical and Political Reflections’, Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, vol. 51, issues 2-3, 2023 (open access) available at: Stalin, the Comintern and the Popular Front in Britain, France and Spain, 1935–1939: Some Historiographical and Political Reflections. Utilising Eric Hobsbawm’s political career as a motif, the article critically discusses the literature on the Popular Front, scrutinises its origins, evolution, demise and legacy through the twentieth century, and addresses many of the issues and arguments.
2. John McIlroy & Alan Campbell, ‘“For Peace and Defence of the Soviet Union: The Leadership of British Communism in the Popular Front Era, 1935–1939’, Labor History, vol. 64, issue 1, 2023, is available at:… After examining the context of Comintern and CPGB policy, this article provides a snapshot of working-class political leadership in the later 1930s by means of a prosopography of the 47 activists who served on the three Central Committees elected between 1935 and 1939.