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Biographical entry Mann, Tom

Trade Union - Activist


Tom Mann was born 15 April 1856 in Foleshill, UK. In 1881 he joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and soon afterwards participated in his first strike. He also became a member of the Fabian Society and the Battersea branch of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) that had just been established by John Burns.

Mann was a strong advocate of the eight-hour day, one of the leaders of the Social Democratic Federation, Henry Hyde Champion, suggested that he should write a pamphlet on the subject. The pamphlet, What a Compulsory Eight-Hour Day Means to the Workers, was published in June, 1886, and helped to persuade a large number of people to support this measure. Mann formed the Eight Hour League and this group was influential in convincing the trade union movement to adopt the statutory eight-hour day as one of its core policies.

He was elected to the London Trades Council, became secretary of the National Reform Union, and a member of the Royal Commission on Labour (1891-93). He remained a strong supporter of Christian Socialism and in 1893 considered the possibility of becoming an Anglican minister. In 1894 Mann was elected as secretary of the new Independent Labour Party (ILP). He stood three times for Parliament as a ILP candidate. He was defeated in the 1895 General Election at Colne Valley and at a by-election in North Aberdeen in the following year, he came within 500 votes of victory. A third attempt at a by-election in Halifax in 1897 also ended in failure.

In December, 1901, Mann emigrated to Melbourne, Australia. He was active in both trade unionism and politics. He became an organizer for the Australian Labour Party. He was arrested twice and charged with sedition but in both cases was acquitted. He returned to England prior to World War One.

Tom Mann died in Leeds on 13th of March, 1941.

Archival resources

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Lloyd Ross - Papers, 1854-1986, 1854 - 1986, MS 3939; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

Published resources

Journal Articles

  • Laurent, John, 'Tom Mann on Technological Change, Unemployment, Education and Leisure: A Turn of the Century Labour Leader's Views', Prometheus, vol. 3, no. 2, 1985, pp. 331-48. Details

See also

Bruce A. Smith