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Working class histories

Victorian London streets with back to back terraces, from Gustave Doré, London, a Pilgrimage (1872)
Victorian London streets with back to back terraces, from Gustave Doré, London, a Pilgrimage (1872)

Sources on working class social and cultural history, including autobiographies, minutes and reports on working conditions.

Available in print, and digitally via the Internet Archive.

Annual reports by the Cardiff Medical Officer on the state of public health and living conditions in the city, for the years 1853-1926. Reports refer to the City of Cardiff (and often break down data into individual districts), the School system, and the Docks.

The level of detail contained in the reports grew substantially over time. Early reports provide census-style data on birth rates, death rates, marriages, infant mortality, housing conditions, deaths in public institutions, violent deaths, and details of incidences of disease and death broken down by cause, age and sex. Causes of death were often compared with data from rural areas, other large towns, or England, enabling comparative studies. Meteorological data was also gathered, as it was long thought that climate was responsible for the outbreak and spread of certain diseases.

From the 1870s, reports are expanded to refer to specific diseases, such as small pox, measles, scarlet fever, diphtheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis and cholera. From the 1890s, reports start to interrogate birth-rate data in more detail, providing marital status by age, causes of infant mortality, and breakdowns of legitimate and illegitimate births by Cardiff district, including the Union workhouse. From 1902 there are reports relating to the Midwives Act 1902 and from 1908, the Notification of Births Act 1907.

From 1914, specific information is provided on maternity and child welfare, including: notifications of births and still births, child welfare consultations, ante-natal consultations, dental clinic, maternity hospitals, domiciliary visits by health visitors, supply of free milk, training of midwives, midwives practicing in Cardiff, medical practitioners called in by midwives, home nursing, home helps, homeless children, and venereal disease.

From 1923, reports are provided relating to the Mental Deficiency Act 1913, including classification of known cases, and summaries of cases in institutions, under guardianship or under supervision at home.

A well-organised and comprehensive collection of national and local press coverage on all aspects of the coal mining industry and its post-war decline in South Wales. Mine closures and strikes are documented in detail. Articles on gas, water and electricity privatisation in the early 1990s are also included, as well as a file of articles on nuclear power. The articles are primarily, but not entirely, taken from the Western Mail, South Wales Argus, Guardian and Observer. A number of photocopied reference works on the South Wales mining industry are also included. Browse the online catalogue.

  • Labour history review (Sheffield, England)
  • International labor and working class history (Los Angeles, USA)
  • Labor (journal of the labor and working-class history association, North Carolina, USA)
  • Bulletin - Society for the Study of Labour History (Sheffield, England)
  • Rebecca: a radical magazine for Wales (Cardiff, Wales)
  • Journal of the Scottish Labour History Society (Aberdeen, Scotland)
  • Labour: journal of the Committee on Canadian Labour History (Novascotia, Canada)
  • Scottish labour history review, Scottish labour history (Glasgow, Scotland)
  • Mitteilungsblatt des Instituts zur Erforschung der europäischen Arbeiterbewegung / Bulletin of the Institute for the Study of the European workers' movement (Bochum, Germany)
  • Llafur: journal of Welsh labour history = cylchgrawn hanes llafur Cymru (Aberyswyth, Wales)
  • Saothar: journal of the Irish Labour History Society (Dublin, Ireland)