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A unique collection capturing the stories and struggles of ordinary people's efforts to improve their world
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United Irishmen emblemBritish military and political intervention in Ireland goes back as far as the 12th century.
Following the unsuccessful rising of the United Irishmen in 1798, the Act of Union in 1800 formally made Ireland part of the UK and the Irish parliament was abolished.   Eighty Irish MPs now sat at Westminster.  There were unsuccessful attempts in 1803, 1848 and 1867 to overthrow British rule and establish a Republic.
The failure of armed rebellion led to the resurgence of constitutional campaigning in the last quarter of the 19th century.  The Irish Nationalist Party sitting in the House of Commons sought a Home Rule Bill which would give Ireland back its parliament  but have it remain within the United Kingdom.  This was opposed by Irish Protestants, particularly in the province of Ulster, fearful of a Catholic majority state.  At the same time there was agitation in the countryside over the rights of tenants to secure tenancies led by the Land League.  A Home Rule Bill was passed in 1912 but suspended at the outbreak of war.
The Easter Rising in 1916 failed but led to Sinn Fein replacing the Irish Nationalists as the majority political force, winning a majority in the general election in 1918.  They refused to take their seats at Westminster and set up the Dail in Dublin. The British government refused to recognise the result, leading to the War of Independence between the IRA and British forces.
The war ended with the treaty of 1921 which established the Irish Free State in 26 counties. The other six counties in Ulster became Northern Ireland, cementing Unionist rule. 
The Catholic minority in Northern Ireland was subject to extensive discrimination resulting in the formation of the Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s. British troops went onto the streets in 1969 following rioting. They soon came into conflict with the IRA.
A political settlement was finally reached in 1998 resulting in power sharing between Unionist and Nationalist parties.

The library’s extensive Irish collection is derived from the libraries of two historians and political activists:  T A Jackson and C Desmond Greaves. It begins in the late 18th century and covers all the principal events and movements noted above, trade unionism and women’s suffrage movement.  It also covers the conflict in Northern Ireland 1969-1997. The collection comprises books, pamphlets, archives, leaflets, posters, newspapers, magazines, photos, LPs and prints.  Click here to arrange a visit to the Working Class Movement Library

Explore 200 years of working class movement activism

Timeline slider
  • 1791

    Thomas Paine publishes 'Rights of man'

  • 1798

    Irish Rebellion

  • 1819


  • 1834


  • 1844

    Rochdale Pioneers

  • 1848

    Chartist banner, 'More pigs and less parsons'Kennington Common Chartist meeting

  • 1867

    'Manchester Martyrs' executed

  • 1868

    First meeting of TUC

  • 1871

    Fall of the Paris Commune

  • 1893

    Foundation of the Independent Labour Party

  • 1906

    Creation of the Labour Party

  • 1908

    Formation of the Plebs League

  • 1913

    Cat and Mouse Bill cartoon : Cartoon from Votes for Women, 1913
    Cat and Mouse Act

  • 1924

    Ramsey MacDonald
    First Labour government

  • 1926

    Arthur Cook_1926General Strike

  • 1931

    Red Megaphones first performance

  • 1932

    Kinder Scout mass trespass

  • 1936

    Map of SpainSpanish Civil War

  • 1944

    Education Act

  • 1945

    National Coal Board notice : National Coal Board noticeNationalisation of the coal industry

  • 1948

    Birth of the NHS

  • 1956

    Tanks on Hungarian street, 1956Hungarian uprising

  • 1958

    CND symbolAldermaston marches and birth of CND

  • 1968

    Prague Spring

  • 1971

    Upper Clyde Shipbuilders : Poster depicting demonstration in support of the ship workers

    Upper Clyde Shipbuilders

  • 1976

    Grunwick dispute

  • 1982

    Falklands War : Cover image from pamphlet 'Resist the Falkland madness: a pacifist response'

    Falklands War

  • 1984

    Miners' strike

  • 1990

    Nelson Mandela's  release from prison

  • 1998

      Good Friday agreement

  • 1999

    Minimum wageIntroduction of national minimum wage

  • 2001

    Stop the War logo
    Stop the War campaign

We need your support

To maintain the momentum of the huge increases in usage of the Library over the last few years, we need to raise an extra £86,000 each year.

Can you help? Click here for news of our 'Future Fund' fundraising appeal.

Wonder Women

The Library's contribution to this Festival, a talk by Tansy Hoskins about her book Stitched Up - the Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion, takes place on Saturday 7 March at 2pm.

To find out more click here.

Object of the Month

Our Object of the Month is a tailor's notebook from 1907.  Find out more here.