Skip to main content

The development of trade unionism among British automobile and aircraft workers 1914-1946

Claydon, T. J. (1981) The development of trade unionism among British automobile and aircraft workers 1914-1946. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94274) (KAR id:94274)


This study is concerned with the early development of trade unionism in the British motor and aircraft industries. Its aim is to estimate the course of union membership and organisational density, to identify their main determinants and to analyse the evolving pattern of organisation. The chief emphasis throughout is on the motor industry but considerable attention has been paid to aircraft manufacture because of the existence of close links between the two industries and the possibility of useful comparison between them. Chapter One defines the scope of the study, reviews the theoretical literature on union growth and development in structure and gives a preliminary discussion of its application to this particular area. Chapters Two and Three describe the main phases in the growth of trade unionism and provide rough quantitative estimates of changes in union strength. Chapter Four applies the analytical framework developed in Chapter One to build up an intuitive model of union growth in the motor and aircraft industries. Chapter Five analyses the developing pattern of organisation in the context of the appropriate literature summarised in Chapter One. It is concluded that the path of union growth in the motor industry was determined by the interplay of general movements in the economy which operated on employment, prices and money wages with certain features of the motor industry's development, chiefly its technical and market structure, that of its labour force and the working conditions prevailing within it. The pattern of union organisation in 1946 is seen as the result of trade unions having different initial jurisdictional bases responding to pressures arising out of general economic movements e.g. depression and changes in production techniques in the automobile, aircraft and engineering industries.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Lovell, John C.
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94274
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: trade unionism, trade unions, automobile industry, aircraft industry
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Economics
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2023 12:30 UTC
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 12:30 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.