The Labour Church was an organisation fundamental to the British socialist movement during the formative years of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and Labour Party between 1891 and 1914. It was founded by the Unitarian Minister John Trevor in Manchester in 1891 and grew rapidly thereafter. Its political credentials were on display at the inaugural conference of the ILP in 1893, and the Labour Church proved a formative influence on many pioneers of British socialism. This book provides an analysis of the Labour Church, its religious doctrine, its socio-political function and its role in the cultural development of the early socialist arm of the labour movement. It includes a detailed examination of the Victorian morality and spirituality upon which the life of the Labour Church was built. Jacqui Turner challenges previously held assumptions that the Labour Church was irreligious and merely a political tool. She provides a new cultural picture of a diverse and inclusive organisation, committed to individualism and an individual relationship with God. As such, this book brings together two major controversies of late-Victorian Britain: the emergence of independent working-class politics and the decline of traditional religion in a work which will be essential reading for all those interested in the history of the labour movement.
Jacqui Turner is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Reading. She holds a PhD from University of Reading.
Abbreviations Introduction Chapter 1. John Trevor: reluctant Christian, reluctant preacher, founder of the Labour Church Chapter 2. Organic growth: an `antidote to black clothes, kid gloves, tall silk hats and long faces' Chapter 3. Daily life: religion, socialism, radicals and women Chapter 4. Doctrine and belief: `labore est orare', to work is to worship Chapter 5. A wider voice: socialists, free thinkers, and sexual rebels Chapter 6. Decline and conclusion: `it was perhaps too brilliant to live' Appendices Bibliography