Fighting on all Fronts: The Amalgamated Musicians' Union During the First World War

Williamson, J. (2016) Fighting on all Fronts: The Amalgamated Musicians' Union During the First World War. Business as Usual?: Institutional Impact in the First World War, University of Glasgow, UK, 02 Mar 2016. (Unpublished)

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This paper examines the position of trade unions and the labour movement during the First World War, with particular focus on the music profession and the Amalgamated Musicians' Union (AMU). It argues that the effects of the war on both the Union and the music profession were mitigated by the decisions of its leader, J.B.Williams. To make this argument, the paper falls into four parts. The first contextualises the growth of trade unions generally and the AMU specifically in the run up to War. It then considers the influence of the labour movement on the AMU's position on the War. The bulk of the paper, however, concentrates on the institutional ramifications for the AMU and the internal conflicts that arose. These focused primarily on industrial relations and competition. Williams created some disharmony by agreeing to suspend industrial action and accept pay cuts across the profession at the outset of the War. However, the greatest rancour was caused by the perceived threat to the employment of professional British musicians from those musicians in the Army and those arriving in the UK as refugees. The final part reflects on the outcome of the War for the music profession and the Union as an institution. Here it argues that while the Union's leadership attempted to foster solidarity, the War was divisive and served to pit particular groups of musicians against each other. The paper concludes by noting that, rather than creating new tensions within the Union, the War merely exacerbated existing ones. Though these remained in its wake, the Union emerged unscathed, and arguably strengthened, by the experiences of the War thanks to the willingness of its leadership to resist the reactionary urges of many of its members.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Williamson, Dr John
Authors: Williamson, J.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
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