Webb, Michelle (2007) The rise and fall of the Labour league of youth. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis charts the rise and fall of the Labour Party’s first and most enduring youth organisation, the Labour League of Youth. The history of the League, from its birth in the early nineteen twenties to its demise in the late nineteen fifties, is placed in the context of the Labour Party’s subsequent fruitless attempts to establish and maintain a vibrant and functional youth organisation. A narrative is incorporated that illuminates the culture, organisation and political activism of the League and establishes it as a predominantly working class radical organisation. The reluctance on the part of the Labour Party to grant autonomy to its youth sections resulted in the history of the League of Youth being one of control, suppression and tension. This state of affairs ensured that subsequent youth groups, the Young Socialists and Young Labour, would be established in an atmosphere of reservation and scepticism.
The thesis places the prime responsibility for the failure of the party’s youth organisations with the party leadership but also considers the contributory factors of changing social and political circumstances. A number of themes are explored which include the impact of structure and agency factors, the power of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the political socialisation of leading figures within the party, the social context in which each of the groups emerged and the extent to which the youth groups were prey to intra-party factionalism.
The thesis redresses the balance of research where most accounts have focussed on the Young Socialists and traces the common characteristics that are prevalent in the way the party leadership has approached its relationship with its youth organisations. Use has been made of previously unpublished primary source material, the major source being the League of Youth members themselves whose recollections have helped to demonstrate the arguments put forward in this thesis.


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