Volume 49 part 1 (April 2004)


Ulbe Bosma and Roger Knight, Global Factory and Local Field: Convergence and Divergence in the International Cane-Sugar Industry, 1850-1940
Technological convergence in the international sugar economy began in the 1830s and was substantially complete by the outbreak of World War I in 1914. By the end of the nineteenth century, the industrialized sugar factory was a global phenomenon: like the steamship and the railway engine (to which key aspects of its innards were closely related). We will argue that the single most important fact about nineteenth-century sugar industries was the degree of technological convergence that came to characterize their manufacturing sectors, regardless of the type of labour involved. A revisiting of the literature of the past twenty-five years, both in the New and Old Worlds, suggests that historians have yet fully to come to terms with the global character of this convergence and with the question of why convergence in the factory had no parallel in the field, where there continued to be a striking global divergence between the means and modes by which the industry was supplied with raw material. This problem in the recent historiography of the subject also highlights issues relating to the "proletarianization" of labour and the assumption that industrial capitalist modernity was inextricably associated with the development of "free labour". More specifically, it draws attention to major flaws in the terms of reference of the now classic debate about the nexus between technological change and the predominant forms of labour in the Caribbean production area. In so doing, it underlines the need for a global rather than simply regional approach to the dynamics of change in the international sugar industry of the late colonial era. The latter part of our paper outlines the broad historical parameters of this divergence in the cane field, and suggests the need for exploring the political economies surrounding the sugar producing areas and their mechanisms of ethnic segmentation of the labour force in particular.

Steven King, "We Might be Trusted": Female Poor Law Guardians and the Development of the New Poor Law: The Case of Bolton, England, 1880-1906
This article uses the only surviving working diary of an English female Poor Law guardian in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to explore two interrelated bodies of historiography. First, it engages with an historiography of the New Poor Law which has by and large seen the late nineteenth century as a period of atrophication. Second, it engages with a literature on female Poor Law guardians which has on balance questioned their achievements and seen such women as subject to all sorts of conflict and discrimination. The article argues that both perspectives may be questioned where we focus on local Poor Law policies and local women. Using the example of Bolton, in England, it is argued that the boards of Poor Law unions were riven by fracture lines more important than gender. Within this context, women of relatively high social status were able to manipulate the Poor Law agenda to make substantial changes to the policy and fabric of the late Victorian Poor Law. Rather than conflict, we often see a warm appreciation of the pioneering work of female Poor Law guardians.

Sarah Badcock, Women, Protest, and Revolution: Soldiers' Wives in Russia During 1917
This study explores the role and political impact of soldiers' wives in three Volga provinces of Russi: Nizhnii Novgorod, Kazan, and Tambov between February and October 1917. Despite relatively low levels of formal organization, soldiers' wives made a significant mark on revolutionary politics at a local level. Common grievances, which centred on the inadequacy of state support in the context of rising food prices and shortages, were the defining feature of soldiers' wives as a group. Though they secured little direct representation in government, and did not affiliate with any political parties, they operated collectively to address their grievances, both in petitions and in public demonstrations. Their demands continued to escalate in 1917, and the government was unable to cushion them from Russia's profound economic crisis. Soldiers' wives rejected both Soviet and provisional government leadership as a result, and their alienation contributed to the sense of political crisis that pervaded 1917.

Joseph Melling, Leading the White-Collar Union: Clive Jenkins, the Management of Trade-Union Officers, and the Politics of the British Labour Movement, c.1968-1979
The growth of white-collar unionism and its impact on British trade unions in the postwar period has received little attention from social historians. Radical critics have noted the failure of Clive Jenkins to provide a clear lead in defending workers' conditions, while mainstream, institutionalist commentators more often stress the diversity of specific interests served by such unions. Recent research has called into question earlier models of union governance, though there remain few studies of the history of officer relations within trade unions. This article examines the leadership of ASTMS in the decade after its formation. It is argued that the strategies pursued by Jenkins, including the recruitment, training, and deployment of field workers, were guided by accumulated knowledge and culture (as well as brilliant opportunism) rather than by the structure of the union or the composition of the membership. In offering educated officers a career structure, ASTMS increased its capacity for expertise and effective communication without descending into the political sectarianism of the postwar years. The charismatic, capricious style adopted by Jenkins, as well as the difficulties of absorbing a diverse membership in this period of rapid growth, contributed to the tensions which culminated in a series of struggles between the union and its bargainers during the 1970s.