EVENT Mar 30
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Unity is Strength: 120 Years of the General Federation of Trade Unions

Manchester, United Kingdom
Categories: Victorian, 20th & 21st Century, History
Event Date: 2019-03-30 Abstract Due: 2018-12-14

Call for papers:

Unity is Strength: 120 Years of the General Federation of Trade Unions

Saturday March 30th 2019, Mechanics Institute, Manchester

Speakers to include: 

  • Dr Alice Prochaska (former Principal of Somerville College)
  • Professor Kevin Morgan (University of Manchester)
  • Professor Geert Van Goethem (Ghent University
  • Doug Nicholls (General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions)

2019 will mark the 120th anniversary of the formation of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU).  As Alice Prochaska observed the creation of the  GFTU was an expression of the “highest and most visionary hopes of many leading trade unionists in Great Britain..[for an] instrument of unity” which might transcend sectional interests.  Created primarily to organise a strike fund which could be drawn upon by affiliated trade unions, the GFTU also found itself involved in discussions about general unionism, industry amalgamations and the need for separate labour political representation.  Additionally, the GFTU was the main body conducting relations with trade unions internationally until 1914.  After the First World War the GFTU increasingly became a federation of the smaller craft and industry unions.  Currently the GFTU supports a broad range of affiliates from sport to music, furniture makers to educational psychologists. The GFTU has always had a strong educational ethos and plays an important role assisting unions in building a new generation of skilled leaders, engaging young workers in new ways and passing on knowledge of the history of the labour movement.

The 120th anniversary of the GFTU provides an occasion to reflect on both its history and its prospects.  The conference organisers would particularly welcome proposals for 20 minute papers on any of the following topics:

The origins and development of the GFTU;
The GFTU’s relationship with the wider labour movement in the UK;
The GFTU’s international role;
The inter-relationships between class, gender, race, age, and sexuality within the GFTU and/or its affiliates;
Leading figures within the GFTU (whether local, regional or national);
Affiliates to the GFTU;
The GFTU’s relationship with organisations and movements beyond the ‘left’;
Significant industrial disputes involving the GFTU and/or its affiliates;  
Debates and disputes within the GFTU.

In addition to these topics, any proposals for papers dealing with any aspect of the GFTU’s history will be considered.  We would also welcome proposals from Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers.

We plan to commission a number of essays arising out of conference contributions, for an edited collection which will be published by Workable Books.

Please send your proposals (300 words maximum) and a one-page cv to:


Deadline for proposals: December 14th 2018






Mike Sanders