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Last updated:17 February 2017

Clerks and secretaries

Office work expanded enormously in Victorian Britain especially in London and other major centres.  The invention of the typewriter and shorthand systems led to new careers in which increasingly predominated.

Apex West of England Area badgeThis Library has the archives for unions which eventually became part of APEX.  These include the National Union of Clerks (NUC), started in 1890, and the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries, which ran as a separate union between 1912 and 1941 before merging with NUC to form the Clerical and Administrative Workers Union.  These unions were studied by Arthur Marsh and Victoria Ryan for a book, The Clerks, published in 1997.  Their research materials have been deposited with us and include cassette tapes and transcripts of interviews with leading figures.

These unions always had incomplete coverage of clerical and secretarial workers in both public and National Union of Clerks and Administrative Workers Scotland Area Council bannerprivate sectors.  Civil servants and local government workers went into other unions.  We have a good run of the civil service workers' journal Red Tape and some examples of journals produced for members of the Railway Clerks Association and Postal Clerks Association.  Other clerks were recruited into unions representing dock clerks, shop workers, Co-op employees, and the banking and insurance industries.

Click on the links to find out more about the histories of the National Union of Clerks and the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries


Related Object of the Month

March 2016: AWCS badge and cartoon

AWCS badgeTwo items from the Library's rich collection of material from the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries, which provides a fascinating insight into the working lives of female secretaries and clerks

Resources about Clerks and Secretaries in the library collection

FD Klingender, The condition of clerical labour in Britain (1935) - Shelfmark: B31

Michael Heller, London clerical workers, 1880-1914: development of the labour market (2011) - Shelfmark: X23

Herbert H Elvin, Socialism for clerks (no date) - Shelfmark: AG Clarion Box 2

Rosemary Crompton and Gareth Jones, White-collar proletariat: deskilling and gender in clerical work (1984) - Shelfmark: I49

Gregory Anderson, Victorian clerks (1976) - Shelfmark: B46