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Our first 100 years
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Labour Research Department centenary image

The Labour Research Department celebrated its centenary year in 2012.

It began life in 1912 as the Committee of Enquiry into the Control of Industry. Within a year, the Committee of Enquiry became the Fabian Research Department, led by figures including Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw and Robin Page Arnot. In 1918 it changed its name to the Labour Research Department.

The organisation's original purpose was to provide competing theories of industrial organisation, but the researchers found themselves inundated with requests for information from trade unions. The unions wanted facts for their campaigns, to protect their members, to use in negotiations and public meetings. One hundred years later, LRD is continuing to provide unions with useful, practical information.

Historical documents from the Labour Research Department are held in the TUC Library Collections at the London Metropolitan University.

Highlights from LRD's first 100 years

1912 - Committee of Inquiry into the Control of Industry
The beginning of LRD, set up as Fabian-Society- sponsored initiative focussing on how industry should be organised with reports on syndicalism, profit-sharing, the co-operative movement etc.
1913 - Committee of Inquiry is established as the Fabian Research Department
Work of the Department shifts away from "blueprints for the future". Focus is now on providing a service for trade unions rather than collecting information about them.
1917 - July sees first issue of monthly stencilled bulletin - Monthly Circular, forerunner of Labour Research
1917 - First major research work on working women
War effort means women flood into industries previously dominated by men. The Department produces Women in the engineering trades, followed in 1920 by Women in trade unions
1918 - Organisation broadens membership outside of Fabian Society and changes name to the Labour Research Department
1920s - key part of LRD's work looked at colonial oppression with a series of bookets on British imperialism
1923 - First survey of MPs' business interests
Labour and capital in parliament
1926 - General strike
LRD worked closely with the Miners' Federation during the period, publishing 26 leaflets arguing the miners' case
1927 - Trade Disputes Act
LRD ''penny pamphlet'' sells 53,000 copies but Act's restrictions on union political funds lead to fall in affiliation to the Department
1930 - the Monthly Circular is renamed Labour Research
1933 - Rise of fascism
LRD exposes British Union of Fascists in booklet, Who backs Mosley?
1930s - rank and file
LRD began a close relationship with several rank and file movements and helped produce pamphlets and newsletters like the Busman's Punch and the New Propeller
1938 - Tenants' rights were an important issue for many workers and LRD covered the issue in its Tenants' Rights guide
1939 - new monthly bulletin launched, Local Government News Service. It was renamed Social Service News a few years later and incorporated into Labour Research in 1950
1939-1944 - The rights of workers' in wartime and the rights of bombed-out people were new issues for LRD to deal with
1939 - first issue of Fact Service the weekly news bulletin
1942 - proscription!
The TUC and Labour Party proscribe LRD following accusations of it being controlled by the Communist Party. Although the TUC decision was overturned the following year, the Labour Party ruling remained until 1972.
1944 - the welfare state
The Beveridge Report sets out plans for the creation of the welfare state and LRD's brief guide sells over 80,000 copies.
1950s - Tenants' rights continue to be one of the main issues for workers and two LRD guides to the Rent Acts of 1954 and 1957 sell over 100,000 copies
1950s - the colonial struggle for independence
LRD exposed the company connections and financial interests in British colonies and rushed out Suez - the company and the Canal, during the Suez crisis of 1956
1961 - racism and immigration
With moves to limit immigration LRD publishes The Colour Bar Bill, a pamphlet refuting the racist arguments on the issue.
1965 - New offices
After 10 moves in its 53-year existence, LRD, with generous support from affiliates and others, is able to buy offices in Blackfriars Road near Waterloo station.
1967 - Political donations
Companies Act requires declaration of party donations and provides LRD with important new area of research
1972 - End to proscription
The Labour Party finally lifts its ban
1979 - Margaret Thatcher wins the election and the first of a series of anti-union laws are drafted before the year is out, marking the beginning of 18 years of Tory attacks on unions, the public sector and the welfare state.
1979 - Bargaining Report
With the end of incomes policies, pay bargaining data is an increasingly important area of work leading LRD to launch a new magazine for negotiators
1984-85 - the miners' strike as in the 1920s, LRD publishes material to support the miners' case and a booklet looking at local action to support the strike
1987 - exposing Tory greed with the Tories' privatisation programme gaining momentum, Labour Research exposes Tory MP Keith Best for illegally making multiple applications to buy British Telecom shares.
Mid-1990s - research work
LRD begins to meet an increasing demand for commissioned research work from trade unions, undertaking many major projects including this analysis for a group of six major trade unions.
1998 - LRD Development Fund
Fantastic support from LRD's affiliates, subscribers and other trade union organisations and individuals enables LRD to make substantial IT investments and carry out major refurbishment of its office.
1998 - PayLine internet service launched
LRD's pay and conditions database becomes available to national unions as an online resource
2000 - Safety rep LRD launches a new four-page monthly to get its health and safety coverage out to a wider audience and Labour Research gets a revamp
2003 - Bargaining Report becomes Workplace Report
Workplace reps magazine redeveloped to include more legal coverage

LRD undertakes first TUC equality audit
2007- Europe
LRD produces Polish language guide to workers rights and also undertakes major project on industrial relations across the EU for ETUI
2008 - Publications online
Redesgned website goes live, making LRDs publications easier to access

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