In Place of Strife

Week 5 Seminar: ‘In Place of Strife’, 1968-1969
Key Skills: considering essay writing approaches; working on central arguments; using primary sources.
Key Concept: Structure versus Agency: to what extent was the issue of trade union reform fixable in 1969? Could one committed Cabinet minister (Barbara Castle) really have succeeded through force of will, or were broader structural forces at work?
Contemporary Relevance: Had the Labour Government of 1966-1970 succeeded, there might have been no failure under Edward Heath, 1970-1974 and no need for Thatcherism to implement more strident reforms to the trade unions.
This seminar is designed to help students tackle the 1,000-word assessed essay, worth 25% of the total mark for this module:
‘Who or what was primarily responsible for the failure of In Place of Strife White Paper in 1969?’
In preparation for the essay, students should have read the following:
Essential Reading:

Marr, A. (2008) A History of Modern Britain Basingstoke: Pan Books, pp. 308-311.
Morgan, K. O. (2001) Britain Since 1945: The People’s Peace Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 298-305 (ebook)
Bale, T. (2002) ‘Barbara Castle’ in Jeffreys, K. (ed.) Labour Forces. From Ernest Bevin to Gordon Brown London: IB Tauris, pp. 180-185. M
Ponting, C. (1989) Breach of Promise: Labour In Power, 1964-1970 London: Hamish Hamilton, pp. 350-371. M
Castle, B. (1993) Fighting All the Way London: Macmillan, pp. 413-425. M
Martineau, L. (2000) Politics and Power: Barbara Castle, A Biography London: Andre Deutsch, pp. 210-248. M
Perkins, A. (2000) Red Queen. The Authorized Biography of Barbara Castle London: Macmillan, pp. 275-303 (Chapter 13) and pp. 304-324 (Chapter 14). M
Tyler, R. (2006) ‘“Victims of our History?” Barbara Castle and In Place of Strife’, Contemporary British History, 20/3: pp. 461-476. M
Recommended Reading:
Pimlott, B. (1992) Harold Wilson London: HarperCollins Publishers, pp. 528-535. M
Jenkins, P. (1970) The Battle of Downing Street London: Charles Knight, pp. 75-97. M
Jones, J. (1986) Union Man: The Autobiography of Jack Jones London: Collins, pp. 202-206. M
Silver, Eric (1973) Victor Feather. An Autobiography London: Victor Gollancz, chapter 12 M

Task 1: Framing the Essay Using Structure versus Agency
Building on the lecture for this topic, we start with a general discussion of how we might use a structure versus agency framework to tackle the essay.
Agency Questions
In terms of agency, were certain individuals or sets of individuals to blame for the failure of In Place of Strife? For instance, one might apportion blame to Barbara Castle. Were there certain aspects to her character which made her unwilling to listen to colleagues and to back down when things became difficult? Did Harold Wilson string Castle along, only to give up when the trade union leaders refused to budge? Or should blame lie with James Callaghan (Home Secretary) and Douglas Houghton (Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party) for blocking the proposals?
Structure Questions
Were there broader forces at work, which constrained Castle’s ability to get these proposals through (eg. PLP, Trade Unions)? Or could she have overcome these structural constraints had she acted differently?
Task 2: Discussing Possible Approaches to the Essay
We will then divide the class into three groups, according to those who (a) wish to pin the blame primary on Castle and Wilson; (b) those who think that James Callaghan and Douglas Houghton should take the bulk of responsibility; and (c) those who think that broader structural forces, notably the trade unions – made solving this issue almost impossible. When in groups, the students should discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their approach as a way of answering the essay question.
Seminar tutors will tour the three groups, listening in and prompting discussion. As the class discussion proceeds, students should begin to formulate a central argument.

Task 3: Possible Use of Primary Sources
To what extent could the following three diaries of Cabinet ministers on In Place of Strife be used and cross-compared (‘triangulated’) to come to a view of what happened:
Benn, T. (1988) Office Without Power. Diaries 1968-72 London: Arrow Books Ltd. M
Castle, B. (1980) The Castle Diaries, 1964-70 London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. M
Crossman, R. (1979) The Crossman Diaries: Selections from the Diaries of a Cabinet Minister, 1964-1970 London: Methuen Paperbacks. M
What are the strengths and weaknesses of using political diaries as a primary source?
What other primary sources might be used in your essays?

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