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"World Chaos"

This is an expanded version of an exhibition at the Modern Records Centre on the global financial crisis which followed the 1929 Wall Street Crash.

Click on the thumbnails to see a larger version of each image.


'The Hunger Marcher', 1929
'The Hunger Marcher', 1929

"Produced on the occasion of the march to Trafalgar Square. Feb 1929". News sheet published by the St Pancras Local of the Communist Party - it emphasises class inequality and the plight of the unemployed before the Wall Street Crash in October 1929.

[Included in the papers of Reg Groves; document reference: MSS.172/BG/7/1]

'Report on current economic conditions', October 1930
'Report on current economic conditions', October 1930

One of a series of regular memoranda published by the Royal Economic Society. A year on from the start of the "world depression" the report expresses concern that "the omens are bad" and that a financial recovery is so far nowhere to be seen.

[Included in the records of the Union of Post Office Workers; document reference: MSS.148/UCW/6/10/17]

'Drifting. A way out of our industrial depression', 1930
'Drifting. A way out of our industrial depression', 1930

Article by T.P. Ritzema from the 'Northern Daily Telegraph'. It condemns the Chancellor of the Exchequer for being over-optimistic about the economy, and concludes by arguing that "as a nation, we are drifting like a vessel without a rudder. If the three political parties would come together and make a united and determined effort to overcome all our difficulties, ours would soon become a land flowing with milk and honey".

[Included in the records of the National Union of Railwaymen; document reference: MSS.127/NU/5/1/167]

'Unemployment, poverty and war for markets can be abolished by a scientific money policy!', 1931
'Unemployment, poverty and war for markets can be abolished by a scientific money policy!', 1931

Leaflet issued in June 1931 by Socialist Money Reformers. It argues that banks should be nationalised and that, through taxation, money should be given to the poor "to finance consumption of goods" and stimulate the economy.

[Included in the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/462/3]

The start of panic in the United States? 1931
The start of panic in the United States? 1931

Letter from J.P. Frey, Secretary-Treasury of the Metal Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor, to Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress. Frey comments on the nature of the economic "collapse" and expresses concern that, as banks were starting to fold, "we seem to be reaching the stage where a panic might be possible".

[Included in the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/973/17]

'A note on economic conditions in the United States', 1931'A note on economic conditions in the United States', 1931
'A note on economic conditions in the United States', 1931

35 page government report written by John Maynard Keynes after his five week visit to the USA. It contains the economist's outline of and opinion on the policy of the Federal Reserve System, the weakness of US banks, the state of wages and employment, and the prospects for recovery. Concern about causing public panic is perhaps reflected in the confidentiality of the report - it has been marked "Very secret" and "To be kept under lock and key".

[Included in the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/567/35]

Verbatim minutes of joint meeting between the National Executive of the Labour Party and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, 20 August 1931Verbatim minutes of joint meeting between the National Executive of the Labour Party and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, 20 August 1931
Verbatim minutes of joint meeting between the National Executive of the Labour Party and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, 20 August 1931

The meeting was four days before the formation of the National Government. The introductory statement by the Prime Minister, James Ramsay Macdonald, includes comments about the international nature of the crisis and the problem of panic caused by newspaper reports.

[Included in a file on the "Financial Crisis 1931", from the records of the Trades Union Congress; MSS.292/420/2]

Letter from the Prime Minister to Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, 21 August 1931Letter from the Prime Minister to Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, 21 August 1931
Letter from the Prime Minister to Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, 21 August 1931

Ramsay Macdonald rejects the advice of the TUC, given at the previous day's meeting, and suggests that, "during this terrible time of depression", Citrine is "overlook[ing] dread realities".

[Included in a file on the "Financial Crisis 1931", from the records of the Trades Union Congress; MSS.292/420/2]

'Down with the "National" Government!', 1931
'Down with the "National" Government!', 1931

Communist Party pamphlet by William Rust, which claims to be "an exposure of the capitalist conspiracy against the workers and how to fight it". Whilst this is an extreme response, the National Government (a coalition, in theory, containing "men from all parties") was attacked by most sections of the political left and led to a split in the Labour Party.

[Included in the papers of Harry Wicks; document reference: MSS.102/4/3/9]

'The economic crisis foretold by 'The Daily Mail' 1921-1931', 1931
'The economic crisis foretold by 'The Daily Mail' 1921-1931', 1931

Booklet containing "crisis predictions year by year" from 'Daily Mail' leading articles. According to the foreword by Viscount Rothermere, "that newspaper foretold from the first the results of national squandermania...; how abnormal and unjustifiable expenditure was adopted as a standard; and how the mass of the people and politicians of this country kept their eyes closed to the inevitable arithmetical consequences of running in to debt". Articles contain attacks on taxation, spending on social services and socialism, and praise for the actions of Mussolini in Italy.

[Included in the records of the National Union of Railwaymen; document reference: MSS.127/NU/5/1/32]

'Women and the political situation', 28 September 1931
'Women and the political situation', 28 September 1931

Statement prepared by the Standing Joint Committee of Industrial Women's Organisations for the Executive Committee of the Labour Party. It opposes the new National Government and provides advice on how Labour could appeal to women voters.

[Included in a file on the "Financial Crisis 1931", from the records of the Trades Union Congress; MSS.292/420/2]

'A National Policy: An account of the emergency programme advanced by Sir Oswald Mosley MP', 1931
'A National Policy: An account of the emergency programme advanced by Sir Oswald Mosley MP', 1931

The emergency programme, intended to solve "The Crisis", was drafted by Mosley and 16 other Labour MPs, including Aneurin Bevan. A year later, in 1932, Mosley would found the British Union of Fascists - documents relating to the rise of fascism in Europe are included in the module resources for 'Making of the Modern World: Ideologies and States'.

[Included in the records of the National Union of Railwaymen; document reference: MSS.127/NU/5/1/10]

'The Financial Crisis! A simple explanation of the facts addressed to every man and woman in the country', 1931
'The Financial Crisis! A simple explanation of the facts addressed to every man and woman in the country', 1931

Leaflet from 'The Friends of Economy'. It attacks remedies proposed by the trade unions, particularly a proposed tax on income from investments, and argues that "since the war, in the desire to improve the standard of living of our people, we have gone further than we can afford in expenditure on social and other services" - therefore "there is only one possible remedy, and that is great public economy and a large reduction of public expenditure".

[Included in the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/560.1/21]

'The bankers in the dock: An indictment of the financiers' dictatorship', by Emrys Hughes, c1932
'The bankers in the dock: An indictment of the financiers' dictatorship', by Emrys Hughes, c1932

The pamphlet blames the fall of the second Labour government on pressure from banks and attacks the power and influence of British and foreign bankers: the crisis of 1931 "has revealed the tremendous power concentrated in the hands of a few bankers whose sole concern is to make huge profits for their shareholders, irrespective of whether their blunders bring the nation to the verge of financial collapse and industrial disaster".

[Included in the records of the National Union of Railwaymen; document reference: MSS.127/NU/5/1/48]

'World Chaos', 1932
'World Chaos', 1932

Trades Union Congress General Council Research Department memorandum. It outlines the "chief symptoms of chaos", "causes of chaos" and "remedies for chaos".

[Included in a file on "Economic Crises: World Chaos 1931", from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/562/5]

Federation of British Industries statement on 'Public expenditure', 1932
Federation of British Industries statement on 'Public expenditure', 1932

The FBI argues that as "we are in the midst of a world crisis without precedent in living memory", "we must curb our desire to find a short cut to Utopia and rest content with the standard of life which we can afford", i.e. cut public expenditure.

[Included in the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/560.1/21]

'My plan for 2,000,000 workless', by Ernest Bevin, 1933
'My plan for 2,000,000 workless', by Ernest Bevin, 1933

Bevin, as General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, argues that "unemployment, with all its consequent demoralisation, ought to be tackled with the same determination with which slavery, child labour and other evils were fought".

[Included in the papers of Ernest Bevin; document reference: MSS.126/EB/X/26]

National Demonstration on Unemployment: Official programme of the Great March to Hyde Park, 1933National Demonstration on Unemployment: Official programme of the Great March to Hyde Park, 1933
National Demonstration on Unemployment: Official programme of the Great March to Hyde Park, 1933

Demonstration under the auspices of the National Joint Council representing the Trades Union Congress, the Labour Party, the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Co-operative Union Ltd. The programme contains the resolution of the demonstration, lists of speakers and a song sheet, including 'The Red Flag'.

[Included in a file on "National Demonstration of Unemployment", from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/135.2/9]

'Unemployed! Why?', 1933
'Unemployed! Why?', 1933

Leaflet included with the official programme of the National Demonstration on Unemployment. Published by the Co-operative Printing Society Ltd.

[Included in a file on "National Demonstration of Unemployment", from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/135.2/9]

Manifesto of the National Hunger March and Congress, 1934
Manifesto of the National Hunger March and Congress, 1934

Groups from across the country were timetabled to converge on Hyde Park on 25 February. They were protesting against "a continuous and terrible economy offensive against the working class" and an increase in the state's "powers of oppression ... and the advance towards open dictatorship".

[Included in the 'Miscellaneous' collection; document reference: MSS.21/3209]

'Great Britain's drink bill in 1933', 1934
'Great Britain's drink bill in 1933', 1934

Report of the United Kingdom Alliance, a temperance society, on British consumption of alcohol. Factors considered include rates of wages and levels of employment - "after three years of severe depression, employment showed a marked improvement in 1933", but the state of trade was still considered to be "bad", "very bad" and "very depressed" in many of the manufacturing industries.

[Included in the records of the Brewers' Society; document reference: MSS.420/BS/4/69/1]