Wool textile employers' organisations : Bradford c.1914-1945
Few historians have written in any detailed form about the widespread development of employers' organisations which took place from the later decades of the nineteenth century, and formed the basis of those which exist in all British industries today. The work which has been done on them has largely focused upon industrial or governmental relations. None of the studies has addressed the phenomenon of employer organisation itself, or explored the more general question of what precisely it is that employers' organisations do. Nevertheless, some far-reaching conclusions have been made about them. This thesis seeks to clarify the purpose and circumstances of employer organisation growth, function, and mode of operation. It assesses how employers responded in an organised manner to quite radical changes in the world market and the nature of British society c.1914-1945. It provides a base of information which covers the range of activities which employers' organisations (broadly conceived) concerned themselves, using the archives of wool textile organisations in Bradford. Lastly, it assesses the significance of employers' organisation in view of some of the claims which have been made about them, and offers some observations on its political and sociological implications. The phenomenon of employer organisation was not simply a 'response' to the greater organisation of labour or government encouragement. Organisation (evident in other industrialised countries also) articulated a transformation in business strategies, away from traditional laissez-faire notions of individual enterprise towards an increasingly centralised, collective strategy. This functioned on many different levels - local, national, international, political, intellectual etc, and by the nineteen thirties marked a maturity in collective action which contrasts sharply with the individualism of just forty years earlier. The broad range of employers' policies extended far beyond the workplace, and expressed a distinct politics. This had implications for the nature and conduct of trade, the form and quality of life, and understanding of the way in which British society was governed.