James Owen – Author Insights

James Owen, author of this month’s #FreeReadFriday title, Labour and the Caucus gives us his insights into the book, its main arguments and highlights the theme of identity within the Labour Party. Read on to get a sense of Owen’s book and peak your interest before downloading your next free LUP ebook!

1)      What prompted you to write this book?

I’ve always been fascinated by how, thirty years before the Labour Party was officially established in 1900, there existed a group of working-class radicals who considered themselves members of a ‘Labour Party’. I wanted to uncover more about their political beliefs and motivations, and, by doing so, provide a ‘pre-history’ of the Labour Party.

2)      What is the main argument of the book?

The book challenges current orthodoxies concerning the confluence of labour activists and Liberals in the third-quarter of the nineteenth century, arguing that important fault lines existed between the two groups and, in most places, the relationship between the two groups was fluid, with ‘labour’ often able to assert itself on its own terms.

3)      How did the findings of the research differ from expectations?

I was surprised by the level of cross-organisational activity that existed between urban and rural working-class activists in the 1870s, who I assumed would have different political aims. However, through personal networks, London-based trade union leaders, republicans and agricultural labourers moved in and out of each other’s worlds, which had important implications for how labour activists conceptualised their identity.

4)      How do you think your research reflects on the Labour Party as it is today?

A running theme in my book is the contested identity of a ‘Labour Party’ during the 1870s and 1880s, and how it meant different things to different people.  A similar situation is again emerging. Given the recent outcome of the leadership contest and the massive surge in new members, it is clear that the contemporary Labour Party is being forced to reassess its identity.


You can download the ebook version of Labour and the Caucus free this Friday 1st October until midnight using code FreeReadFriday on the Liverpool University Press website.

For more information and instructions of how to download – see here: liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/FreeReadFriday/LabourandtheCaucus

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