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The General Strike

The General Strike of 1926 was the largest industrial dispute in Britain's history. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) called the strike to prevent wage reduction and worsening conditions for coal miners. It took place over nine days, from 4 May until 12 May 1926. Many industries were involved and the strike had wide-reaching effects on people and trade unions.

Which group was responsible for the strike build up?

Using selected primary sources develop arguments to help decide if the blame for the strike can be placed on the shoulders of one of these groups.

  • The Trades Union Congress (TUC)
  • The Government
  • The coal mine owners
  • The mineworkers and their union leaders

How did the strike unfold day by day?

There is a traditional view that the strike was peaceful and good-natured. Does evidence from the Cabinet papers support this view? On the second day of the strike this discussion took place in Cabinet:

'The Cabinet discussed generally the emergency measures taken to deal with the situation created by the general strike. The Cabinet were informed that horse racing had already been stopped. There was general agreement that cricket should not be stopped.'

What happened in the aftermath of the strike?

Did the General Strike clear the air between the unions, employers and the government? Or did industrial relations remain just as bitter after the strike? On the last day of the strike the Cabinet agreed that:

'The calling off of the General Strike is a victory for the common sense of a united British people and it is now necessary not to look behind but ahead with no spirit of malice or vindictiveness.'

PDF versions of background sections and guidelines for researching primary sources

  • General Strike build-up
  • Diary of the strike
  • Aftermath of the strike
  • Researching primary sources

Further reading

  • Pearce, R., Britain: Domestic Politics 1900-39. 2nd edn (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2000)
  • Pearce, R., Britain: Industrial Relations and the Economy 1900-39 (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1994)
  • Morris, M., The General Strike. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976)
  • Florey, R.A. , The General Strike of 1926 (London, New York: Calder, 1981)