Rodney Bickerstaffe (1945-2017): labour historian

Rodney Bickerstaffe

The former trade union leader and champion of the national living wage, Rodney Bickerstaffe, has died aged 72.

In news that has shocked the labour movement and left, tributes have been led by current union leaders and prominent Labour politicians, including UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

It has also come to light that, in addition to his work as a campaigner and union leader, ‘Bick’ also took a keen interest in labour history, including writing an introduction to a scrapbook of sources collected by his mother about the Spanish Civil War. He also spoke at labour history events, including one to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Edward Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class. He also carried out his own oral history research with figures from the labour movement.

As Keith Flett writes in his blog, it is hoped that labour historians will be inspired by the work of Bickerstaffe and provide a fitting tribute to his life: ‘Rodney Bickerstaffe’s papers are at the Modern Record Centre, Warwick University, and it is to be hoped both that some of his labour history work and a good biography of his life and times will see the light of day in due course.’