SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Gourlay, Stephen Nicholas (1983) Trade Unionism in Bengal Before 1922: Historical Origins, Development and Characteristics. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
Download (19MB)


The aim of this thesis is to describe and account for the development of trade unionism in Bengal from its earliest manifestations at the beginning of the nineteenth century to the formation of a trade union federation in 1922. Chapter 1 indicates the theoretical inadequacies of many existing studies of trade unionism in India, and outlines an alternative perspective, 'Trade unionism' in this thesis refers to all forms of collective action over work or labour market conditions in which all types of employees engage. Chapters 2 and 3 present evidence for trade unionism from the early nineteenth century to the mid-1890s. The engagement in some form of collective activity by employees from all sectors of the labour market, ranging from expatriate civil servants to 'manual' workers, is indicated, and suggestions put forward to account for the limited nature of developments in this period. Chapter 4 discusses three phases of increased strike activity, accompanied by the formation of trade unions, between the mid-1890s and the end of the First World War. This marked development is discussed in relation to changes in the labour market, price rises, and phases of political activity. Chapters 5-8 are concerned with the unprecedented upsurge of trade unionism that occurred between 1918-19 and 1921-2, Chapter 5 presents a statistical description of strike activity and trade union formation which enables phases and patterns of activity to be identified. Chapter 6 examines the relationship between these phases, and changes in living costs, showing through examples the processes whereby employees engaged in, or adopted new forms of trade unionism. Chapter 7 focusses on the relations between post-War trade unionism and the non-cooperation movement, while Chapter 8 examines the organizational consolidation of unions, and attempts made to establish a federation. Chapter 9 draws out some general conclusions about the processes of emergence and development of trade unionism in Bengal.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:20

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item