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On this day in history in 1936, the Jarrow March began.
The Jarrow March was a protest demonstration by unemployed coal and shipyard workers, who walked from Jarrow in County Durham to London, in order to draw attention to the troubles facing the unemployed during the Depression.
The Great Depression was an economic blight which hit Britain in the 1920s and 1930s. The First World War had battered the nation’s economy, but there was a short period of prosperity after the war, due to ‘restocking’ by industry. In the 1930’s, the Depression caused major unemployment, particularly in the North East of England, where the coal and shipbuilding industries predominated. There was very little Social Security provision, and little chance of alternative employment, causing great hardship, even starvation, to miners, shipworkers and their families.
On 5th October 1936, 200 men, known as the ‘Jarrow Marchers‘ started to walk from Jarrow to lobby Parliament. This procession became known as the ‘Jarrow Crusade’, a term used on banners carried by the marchers. The participants wanted to obtain jobs to support their families and also find recognition and respect for themselves and other workers throughout the country. The marchers had no food or money, but they received great support from the public. Wherever the marchers stopped overnight, local people would give them shelter and food, and even provide them with boots to enable them to continue. The route was 280 miles and took 22 days.
When the marchers arrived in London, they presented a petition of 12,000 signatures, gathered en route. Sadly, the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, declined to see any of the marchers.
The march achieved nothing but publicity. In 1939, at the outbreak of The Second World War, increased demand for coal and ships brought sufficient work to Jarrow and other affected areas.
The Jarrow March is remembered by Socialists as a landmark in the history of the labour movement, although the Labour Party at the time opposed it.
Broadberry S N. The British Economy between the Wars.
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