Monday, 27 January 2020

Keith Flett on Ten Volumes of the Dictionary of Labour Biography (2001)

Ten Volumes of the Dictionary of Labour Biography
Written By: Keith Flett
Date: January 2001
Published In LSHG Newsletter Issue 11: Lent 2001 

With the publication of the tenth volume of the Dictionary of Labour Biography John Saville and Joyce Bellamy have stepped down as Editors of the series which now dates back, as a project almost 40 years. Neville Kirk and David Howell will take responsibility for future volumes. John Saville has produced the tenth volume under his own steam, due to the indisposition of Joyce Bellamy.

In an introduction to the volume, “Un Peu d’Histoire’’, Saville records the origins of the DLB in biographical notes that GDH Cole [d1959] had collected and traces its development since. Early volumes were as Saville records ‘dominated by miners and co-operators’ but the range of people covered in later volumes is wider. Readers are referred to the DLB article for more detail.

We should record here, however, gratitude at the sheer depth of scholarship and research that has gone into providing such an invaluable resource on the activists of the modern British labour movement from the 1790s. Saville had insisted that the DLB would be about activists and not just leaders, who often write autobiographies to record their deeds, great or otherwise. It is also good news that the DLB will continue in the capable hands of Howell and Kirk. In recent years The Guardian’s obituaries page has made some attempt to cover labour movement lives - one of the paper’s few real strengths and a rare nod to who much of its readership actually is - but for those interested in finding out about the activists who have organised things from the bottom up the DLB is irreplaceable.

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