Matthew Thomas (Sunderland) visits Norfolk to investigate the Burston School Strike

Thanks to the bursary generously given to me by the SSLH, I was able to visit Norfolk Record Office to consult archive material on the Burston School Strike, the longest strike in British history. School strikes are underdeveloped events in historiography. It is the purpose of my study to examine the origins and impacts of strike action involving organised children. It will use an inter-regional approach to examine how they enhance our understanding of labour politics, unions and strikes during the Great Labour Unrest and the First World War.

Handbill for the opening of the Burston Strike School.
Handbill for the opening of the Burston Strike School, dated May 1917. Original held at Norfolk Record Office. MC 31/38, 478×1.

The research carried out during my two day trip provided invaluable documents. For example, a copy of the school log book for the Burston and Shimpling School describes the conduct of the school, details of the attendance rates and disciplinary action under Mrs. Higdon, the headmistress of the school and wife of a Labour activist. This has helped to provide the necessary context for the dispute between the local authorities and the headmistress, as well as the children who supported her and voted in favour of founding the Burston Strike School. Furthermore, Norfolk Education Committee minutes, newspaper articles, pamphlets and booklets all have provided accounts of the strike; the motivations; the politics; and the ways in which these affected local government and industrial relations in general. Without the SSLH bursary, I would not have been able to conduct this research, which has contributed immensely to my understanding of the School Strike.

Find out more about SSLH bursary schemes.