A History of the Labour Party (1840 - 1906)

Ref: C3680143

What was the Labour Party and why was it founded? Who were the men and women of the British labour movement? How and why did they represent the specific political, social and economic interests of working class people from diverse backgrounds? This course will use these questions to understand the pre and early history of the Labour Party in the context of the trade union movement, socialist ideology and universal suffrage. We will discover why and how the Labour Party came to prominence in a political system previously dominated by the aristocracy and landed classes. It will also introduce students to the diversity of political thought among fellow travellers in the labour movement and what they wished to achieve politically.

Course aim

The aim of the course is to introduce students to the history of the early Labour Party. It will do this by taking account of the development of the trade union movement, socialist ideology and the emergence of an organised labour movement.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Understand the impact of the enlightenment, industrialisation and the extension of the franchise on British society and politics during the 19th century.
  • Describe the development of the trade union movement from the 19th to the 20th century and identify key events that led to the founding of the Labour Representative Committee (LRC) in 1900.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the principles of different socialist ideologies including Fabianism, Christian socialism and Marxism and how they influenced the development of the British labour movement.
  • Describe the biographical profile of early Labour Party politicians and develop an understanding of what motivated them politically.
  • Discuss the origins of the British Labour Party in classes and/or present a short optional presentation in the final session on any aspect of the course that interests me.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

You do not need to bring anything to the class. Learning resources will be provided by the tutor on the Canvas system for you to access online. These resources will include weekly optional homework reading for each class.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

A History of the Labour Party (1840 - 1906)

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This course has been cancelled.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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