Robin Page Arnot

Scope and Content

Extracts form the minutes of the Amalgamated Association of Miners' Conferences 1872 and 1874-1875; extracts from newspapers and periodicals 1869-1942; research notes 1931-1965; notes of personal interviews with colliery veterans 1945-1964; personal statements collected in South Wales regarding the history of the coalfield, undated (c1960-1964); report of visits to the Colliery Disputes Committee 1961; extracts and transcripts from trade-union minutes and reports 1902-1931; papers relating to the writing of 'South Wales Miners' 1963-1966; manuscript and typescript drafts of parts of chapters for 'South Wales Miners' 1965-1966; South Wales Area report on pneumoconiosis 1962; proceedings in the House of Lords: South Wales Miners' Federation verses Glamorgan Coal Company and other South Wales Colliery Companies 1903; Deed of Trust and Scheme of Arrangement for Senghenydd and Glynea Explosion Fund 1913-1914.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robin Page Arnot was born in 1890 at Greenock. His father was the editor of the Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette. He went to Glasgow University where he helped to form the University Socialist Federation in 1912.

Robin Page Arnot was closely connected with the Labour Research Department from its beginnings. In 1912 the Fabian Beatrice Webb had established a Committee of Enquiry into "The control of industry in the state of tomorrow". One of the volunteers attracted to the project was Arnot. The committee soon turned into the Fabian Research Department and in 1914 Arnot became its full-time secretary, a post he held until 1926.

War broke out in 1914 and Arnot was called up to fight in 1916. He refused to go, being opposed to war and was imprisoned for two years in Wakefield as a conscientious objector. When he was released in 1918 he returned to his former post as Secretary of the Research Department which had by then changed its name to the Labour Research Department, having become an independent 'fact-finding body for the trade union and labour movement'. In 1919 the miners demanded higher wages, shorter hours and nationalisation of the mines. The government established a Committee of Enquiry and the Miners' Federation asked the LRD for help. Arnot assembled evidence on their behalf and publicised the miners' cause. Arnot, together with H.H. Slesser, the Federation legal advisor, drafted the Mines Nationalisation Bill which was presented to the Royal Commission set up by the government. During the railway strike later that year, Arnot and the LRD organised publicity for the railwaymen.

Arnot was one of the founder members of the Communist party in 1920 and a member of the Party's Central Committee. He was arrested under the 1797 Incitement to Mutiny Act in 1925 and spent 6 months in jail. He was released on the eve of the 1926 General Strike and helped to form the Northumberland and Durham Joint Strike Committee. He later returned to the LRD as Director of Research and wrote a book on the general strike. Arnot was Principal of the Marx Memorial Library from 1933 and from 1949-1975 he wrote a famous 6-volume series on the history of the miners. He was also the author of a two-volume Short History of the Russian Revolution (1937). He was elected to the LRD's Executive in 1938 and was re-elected every year until 1976 when he was made Honorary President. He was a contributor and working editor for the 'Labour Monthly' until its last issue in March 1981.

Robin Page Arnot died in 1986 aged 95.

SOURCES: 'Labour Research' June 1986, Robin Page Arnot: an obituary; 'Morning Star' May 19 1986.

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