From Foundry to Foreign Office: the Life of Arthur Henderson (1863-1935), Labour Party Leader
by Professor Andrew Thorpe

Date: Thursday 20 February 2020

The life of one of Labour’s founders, touching on party politics, trade unionism, Methodism, and international relations between the wars

From Foundry to Foreign Office: the Life of Arthur Henderson (1863-1935), Labour Party Leader

Arthur Henderson is one of the legendary figures of British Labour history. One of the Labour party’s earliest MPs, party leader three times, and minister in four governments under three different Prime Ministers, his crucial opposition to Labour premier Ramsay MacDonald in the political crisis of 1931 earnt him an almost mythical status in the Labour pantheon, and he went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his unavailing efforts to ensure peace at the Geneva Disarmament Conference between 1932 and 1934. This lecture traces the complex roots of Henderson’s politics via Wesleyan Methodism, trade unionism, and Gladstonian Liberalism, and offers a reappraisal of this often-mythologised and misunderstood figure.

Andrew Thorpe is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Humanities and Professor of Modern British History at the University of Exeter. Among his publications are The British General Election of 1931 (Oxford University Press, 1991), Britain in the 1930s (Blackwell, 1992), The British Communist Party and Moscow, 1920-1943 (Manchester University Press, 2000), A History of the British Labour Party (Palgrave, 1997; 4th edn. 2015), Parties at War: Political Organization in Second World War Britain (Oxford University Press, 2009), and, co-edited with Richard Toye, Parliament and Politics in the Age of Asquith and Lloyd George: The Diaries of Cecil Harmsworth, MP, 1909-1922 (Cambridge University Press for the Royal Historical Society, 2016). He is currently writing a biography of the Labour leader, Arthur Henderson (1863-1935).

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