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The working men's club movement, 1862-1912 : a study of the evolution of a working class institution

By Laurence Marlow


This is a study of the working men's club movement from its foundation\ud in 1862 until its silver jubilee in 1912. The structure of the study\ud is as follows:-\ud INTRODUCTION: The basic themes addressed in the study are set out and\ud the method of investigation is discussed.\ud CHAPTER 1: This chapter reviews key themes in the development of the\ud club and the notion of 'clubbability' through a critical overview\ud of the role of the club in British society from the late seventeenth\ud century until the mid nineteenth century. Among issues given particular attention are the role of political factionalism in developing\ud the club, the exclusive character of membership and the strong but\ud not unchallenged stress upon the "maleness" of clubbability.\ud CHAPTER 2: This chapter evaluated the first twenty years of the\ud working men's club movement. It is shown that the club emerged as a\ud product of the rational leisure movement and the specific influences\ud which shaped the early years of the movement are discussed. This\ud section also sets out the basic features of the club and discusses\ud the ideology of paternalism which dominated the movement until the\ud early 80's.\ud CHAPTER 3: This section examines the development of the movement after\ud the "revolt" of the early 80's which democratised the Unions. Clubs were\ud now run by as well as for working men. It is also argued that despite\ud this break in organisational structure there was a strong degree of\ud continuity in the ideological concerns of the two eras of the movement.\ud In particular there was a great deal of agreement regarding the ideals\ud which club membership ought to set before the working man. It is also\ud argued in this section that the club movement had to monitor its\ud progress carefully in order tat its character as a national movement\ud would be maintained.\ud The following three chapters discuss crucial aspects of the internal\ud life of the clubs. The aspects selected not only affected the evolution\ud of particular clubs but also shaped the character and public imange of\ud the club movement.\ud CHAPTER 4: The issues raised by the supply of intoxicants in the\ud majority of clubs are discussed in this chapter. It is argued that\ud while the income generated by the sale of excisables produced a\ud valuable source of revenue for the clubs which helped to assure its\ud development the introduction of drink also had less beneficial\ud consequences. In particular the club became reviled as a "menace to\ud sobriety" and concerted attempts were made, led by the licensed trade\ud and tho temperance movement, to place the clubs under legislative\ud control. The history of that campaign is discussed and the role of\ud drink in club life evaluated.\ud CHAPTER 5: Educational work carried out in the club provides the\ud focus of this chapter. It is argued that despite much criticism club\ud education was more extensive and valuable than has been recognised.\ud Moreover the ideology of citizenship which inspired much of that educational work has to be understood if the character of the club movement\ud is to be appreciated.\ud CHAPTER 6: The facilities developed for the amusement of the members\ud are discussed. It is shown that clubs developed a varied and extensive\ud programme of entertainments. The debate in the movement regarding the\ud quality of club provision is also evaluated.\ud CONCLUSIONS: The main themes examined are reviewed. It is noted that\ud in objective terms the movement had made great progress from the humble\ud beginnings of 1862. However it is also noted that there was some debate\ud about the extent to which the ideals of clubbability had been realised

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