History GCSE- Protest in the 20th Century

Notes on Protest topics

HideShow resource information

General Strike

Background to the General Strike

Tensions in the mining industry:

  • Problems between the private owners of coal mines + the miners' unions--SAFETY & PAY
  • Due to increasing overseas competition, owners cut wages and increased working hours to maintain profits.
  • Miners went on strike
  • Miners were oppossed by government who used the army + police to smash strikes
  • Coal was essential to the economy-needed for heat and power
1 of 27

Strength in Numbers + War and Government Control

Miners, transport, workers, railwaymen

  • Strikes were organised by different unions
  • Triple Industrial Alliance (TIA) was  formed by the 3 main miners unions

-->Agreed to strike together and not settle until all 3 unions obtained satisfactory agreements

  • WWI changed priorities making war effort Britain's main focus
  • Government needed to ensure that coal production was continuously maintained at a high level
  • Nationalised the industry-taking control of the mines and paying miners directly
  • People liked that the government took control

-->Good pay + hours, make things fair

2 of 27

Dissapointment After The War

  • Miners recommended the government should nationalise mining however they returned control of the mines to their owners
  • In 1921 the miners went on strike and the TIA agreed to support them
  • On Friday 15th April the leader of the railway union J.H Thomas refused to act --> Black Friday
  • In 1925 the TIA threatened to strike forcing conservative government to give a nine month subsidy to private owners - prevent wage cuts -->'Red Friday' (31st July 1925)

The Samuel Commission's Report

  • In April 1925 employers made it clear that they would reduce wages by 10% and increase hours from 7-8 a day after the subsidy
  • The Samuel Commission suggested reforms, opposed extra working hours, but said miners should accept wage cuts --> miners rejected these recomendations saying 'not a penny off the pay not a minute on the day'
3 of 27

Government Tactics

  • It divided the country into regions with local headquarters and a communications network between London and local authorities
  • Made stockpiles of resources including food and an emergency electricity supply
  • Set up the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies (OMS) to recruit and train workers to act as strike breakers
  • Tried to organise access to the media so the government could control what people heard about the strike
  • Used the Emergency Powers Act (1920) to recruit special constables to help the police deal with the strike
4 of 27

The Start of the General Strike

After the miners announced 'not a penny off the pay not a minute on the day', mine owners closed all the pits to force the miners to accept the new conditions by causing real hardship.

  • Unions were outraged
  • Talks broke down between unions and government when print workers on the 'Daily Mail' refused to print an anti-strike editorial

The TUC called a general strike in support of the miners which began on 4th May 1926

  • They wanted workers to come out in stages, with public health medical and food workers not striking, so lives weren't put at risk
  • Over a million workers came out on strike on the first day
5 of 27

Media Control

  • Government produced a paper 'The British Gazette' attacking the General Strike as a threat to destroy laws + British Constitution
  • Government had taken over newsprint supplies -->TUC (Trade Union Congress) paper was only 4 pages long
  • Government ministers made frequent BBC broadcasts about the strike
  • BBC refused to allow union leaders or leader of the Labour Party speak on the radio

-->One sided

-->Genral Strike was illegal

--> Archbishop of Canterbury also excluded

6 of 27

Local Action

  • In some areas, workers formed self-defence armies to control transport in their area + to prevent police interference and the activities of the OMS volunteers
  • There were some clashes between police and strikers (Newcastle&Glasgow) but it was mainly peaceful
  • In most areas both police & strikers didn't want to provoke violent outbursts
  • However 5000 strikers were arrested for disorder, picketing or encouraging others to join the strike
7 of 27

Striker Tactics

  • Held daily meetings to keep strikers & families in touch with news, and keep up their morale
  • Meetings turned into social events --> sports, concerts, meals, picnics, hymns being sung
  • Effort made to stop traffic moving
  • Trams overturned
  • Railways greased
  • Trams derailed in Northumberland (driver ignored striker)
  • Stopped volunteers that the government hired to do their job
  • Had their own newspaper- 'The British Worker'
8 of 27

The End of the General Strike

  • Despite actions of the police and OMS the strike was successful and public transport came to a complete standstill
  • However after 9 days the TUC called off the strike- Not successful
  • By 11th May 1926, there was no sign that the government would give way
  • When Sir Herbert Samuel offered to act as mediator, the TUC accepted
  • He produced the Samuel Memorandum-Suggested a renewal of the subsidy to mine-owners to maintain wage levels in the short term, no wage reductios and the setting up of a National Wages Board
  • On 12th May the TUC called off the strike hoping the Samuel Memorandum would be accepted (The Prime Minister had given no garuntees)
  • The strike lasted unofficially until 14th May but miners refused to go back.
  • Mine-owners refused to compromise so the coal strike lasted until December 1926
  • In the end miners went back to longer hours and lower wages
9 of 27


Problems in the 19th Century:

  • Very few rights i.e not allowed to have property --> Weak
  • Representation- no woman representatives in parliament
  • Image- seen as inferior to men
  • Restricted to the roles of society-pinmoney and homemakers
  • Don't have the vote
  • Most people (women included) thought that politics should be left to men
10 of 27

Parliament vs Women


  • Executive power of the land
  • Higher authority
  • Make laws
  • Democratic voice of people
  • People could air their views on things
  • Legitimate/Responsible


  • Martyrs-Woman throws herself under King's horse-->Emily Davison 1930
  • Engage in acts of terrorism:
  • -->Burnt down houses
  • -->Bombed post boxes
  • -->Smashed windows
  • -->Chained themselves to railings
  • Arrested/beaten by the police
  • Hunger strike
11 of 27

What is done?

1. Petition

  • Non-violent
  • Doesn't succeed

2. Organisation that defends the rights of women

  • Meetings
  • Revolutionaries become bigger

3. Solidification

  • Unite with eachother-plays/songs/art/poetry

4. Polarization

  • Movement split between reformists(non-violent) and revolutionaries(violent)
12 of 27

What is done continued

5. Non-violent

  • Resistance-Civil disobedience
  • Marches
  • Heckling
  • Meetings

6. Confrontation

  • Violence
  • Demonstrations
13 of 27


National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies(NUWSS)

-->Believed in peaceful protest & working with men to get what they want

Leader: Millicent Fawcett


  • Leaflets
  • Letters
  • Petitions
  • Peaceful demonstrations
14 of 27


Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU)

-->Organising events to get publicity

Leader: Emmeline Pankhurst

Motto: 'Deeds not words'


  • Disrupting political meetings
  • Chaining themselves to railings
  • Destroying property
15 of 27

Different Methods Undertaken

  • WSPU dropped leaflets from airships
  • Suffragettes newspaper 'Votes For Women' sold in the streets with leaflets
  • Women staged 'publicity stunts'-Raised public awareness and advertised meetings
  • WSPU and NUWSS attracted over 3000 to march in London 'Mud March'
  • October 1906-Members of WSPU protested in House of Commons-->Some arrested, sent to prison, chained themselves to railings outside Downing Street 
  • June 1908-WSPU marched to Hyde Park with over 300,000 protesters
16 of 27

Government Methods

  • Found it difficult to deal with protests without upsetting public opinion
  • Some people of the govt supported the cause & wanted to introduce a reform but it was withdrawn or altered each time
  • Banned all women from Liberal meetings
  • Treated women as criminals in prison(not allowing them to speak)
17 of 27

Hunger Strikes

  • Women wanted to be treated as political prisoners rather than criminals. The government refused so they went on hunger strikes
  • Authorities began to force feed(pushing a tube down the throat feeding watery gruel into the stomach)
  • Many vomitted after
  • The food occasionally went to the lungs causing serious health problems

--> They succeeded in getting what they wanted

18 of 27

The 'Cat and Mouse' Act

  • Passed in 1913
  • Allowed authorities to release hunger-strikers while they recovered and re-arrest them when they were better
  • Showed government strength in using its powers to make laws to foil protest and blunt the hunger strike weapon
19 of 27

The Police and 'Black Friday'

  • Friday 18th November-Over 300 women went to parliament to protest
  • Police were instructed by the government to frighten and humiliate the suffragettes
  • There were accusations of violent & sexual assult
  • 29 women complained of assult by police
  • The result- Hundereds of suffragettes were now prepared to break windows and go to prison
  • From 1911, suffragettes began a window breaking campaign & the destruction of golfing greens--> designed to generate publicity
20 of 27

Attempts at Compromise

  • 1910-Asquith agreed to work with the WSPU and NUWSS to produce a Conciliation Bill exending the right to vote to women
  • WSPU agreed to a political true and stopped its violent protests
  • Progress was being made
  • Liberals thought that women would vote for Conservatives so the Conciliation Bill was abandoned

Suffragettes-->Violent methods

Suffragists-->Non-Violent methods

21 of 27

What was the effect of WW1 on Women's Rights?

  • August 1914-WSPU protests were suspended due to the outbreak of war with Germany
  • WSPU encouraged its members to support the war effort despite being without the vote
  • Government released all WSPU criminals so they could help with the war effort
  • NUWSS followed but didn't support the war as much as most WSPU leaders
  • Women showed they were capable of doing 'men's work'
  • They made a huge contribution to Britain winning the war
  • Was partly successful because only women over 30 and women who owned their own property got the vote in 1918
22 of 27

Splits in the movement: Why?

  • Not all suffrage groups supported the war
  • Tensions in the suffrage leadership
  • Emmeline+Christabel Pankhurst helped to recruit young men to serve in the war
  • Sylvia Pankhurst strongly opposed war-was a socialist & pacifist. In 1913 she left the WSPU to form the East London Federation for Working Class Women-felt WSPU was too focused on middle-class
  • Syliva Pankhurst wanted all women to have the vote
  • Christabel wanted to appeal to more prosperous members of society-WSPU relied heavily on monet supplied by wealthy women
  • Christabel argues for a limited suffrage that gave votes to women with money+property
23 of 27

Successful or Non-successful?


  • Change the image of women(men, women, government)
  • Win the vote in 1918 for women over 30
  • Win in 1923-extend voting franchise
  • Win all votes in 1928
  • Prove they are just as good as men in the world of work
  • Violent tactics work
  • -->Gained publicity
  • -->Made the government listen to them
  • -->Made them more publicly known
  • -->Changed views
24 of 27

Successful or Non-successful


  • Campaign takes nearly 30 years
  • Cat&Mouse Act
  • Black Friday
  • Government betray women regularly
  • Many men + government have a negative view on women
  • Campaign dwarfed by achievements of WW1
  • Casualties-not all at once
  • Other problems take precidence
  • -->Ireland
  • -->Economy
  • -->Communism
  • -->Division between working and middle class
25 of 27

Miner's Strike 1984-1985

  • In the 1970s the National Union of Miners(NUM) held a number of successful strikes that brought down the Conservative Government
  • 1979-Margaret Thatcher got to power and said pits in the UK should be shut down
  • Arthur Scargill(leader of the NUM) led the miners on a strike for a year to try and stop the pits being closed
  • In the end the miners lost the dispute
26 of 27

The Poll Tax Riots

What was the 'Poll Tax'?

  • Introduced by the Conservative Government in Scotland in 1989 and then England and Wales in 1990
  • A new system of raising money to pay for local government services( refuse collection, maintenance of roads)
  • Replaced the old rates system

Why was it introduced?

  • Many Conservatives felt every taxpayer should pay an equal amount
  • Nicholas Ridley(minister in charge of poll tax) said: 'Why should a Duke pay more than a dustman?'
  • Some felt the old rates system had been unfair
  • Mrs Thatcher's advisers suggested there would be 38 million poll-tax payers compared with 14 million rate payers so charges for local services would be easily spread
27 of 27




very good

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »