Freemasons, Friendly Societies and Trade Unions
Dr Bob James historical research highlights the neglect by many historians of the origins of Trade Unions as part of a broader movement of benefit societies, which includes Freemasons, Oddfellows, Friendly Societies and Fraternal organisations.
Articles & Essays
Updated and revised May 2002.
A major study (almost 90,000 words, over 700 footnotes and references) into the origins of Trade Unions, Freemasons and Friendly Societies. Understanding this history can contribute to redressing the directions and structure of these mutual organisations, and the directions for society in general.
Windows users: Download the whole text as a winzip file (294kb) for easy reading offline.
- Problems with UK and US Odd Fellow Literature by Dr Bob James
"It's well past time that all persons who like to think of themselves as 'Masonic' historians or 'Labour' historians or 'Friendly Society' historians got down off their high horses and began talking to one another, in a mutually critical but constructive way."
- The Story of GUOOF and Traveller's Home in the 1840's and 1850's by Dr Bob James
Following on from his published history of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows in Australia, Secret Handshakes and Health Care in Australia, Bob James has continued his research into the beginnings of the GUOOF in Australia.
- Mutuality - a paper for the Australian Friendly Society Association National Conference, Coffs Harbour, May 2000. A presentation by Dr Bob James on the demutualisation debate - includes a brief history lesson on the origin of Friendly Societies and Trade Unions.
- Secret Handshakes and Health Care in Australia...Bob James
Provides us with the story of the spread of health care throughout Australia through the efforts of ordinary working people. The story of Friendly Societies, in this case the Grand United Order of Oddfellows, is a remarkable story of mutual aid which for too long has been ignored by labour historians. Part One tells the story of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows in Australia. Part Two is a more personal account of Lodge history told through an elderly woman in a letter to her grandchildren.
- Secret Societies and the Labour Movement....Bob James
The Knights of Labour and their context....Bob James
Display of Secret Society Paraphenalia....Labour History Conference, Wollongong, October 1999
These two essays were published for the 6th Biennial conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, held in Wollongong, October 1999. In conjunction with the conference Bob James organised a display of historic photographs of banners, certificates, as well as stand up figures and regalia he has collected in his researches. These essays are of value to anyone interested in the origins of trade unions and working peoples organisations. As Bob James sums up in the last paragraph: All lodges, today, are in decline, and the loss of membership of 'trade unions' is just one part of that. At a time when Australian mateship is being denigrated and generational dysfunction is widespread, there is little awareness of what used to tie communities together, what 'solidarity' can mean or how the 'labour movement' built itself in the first place.
- The Tragedy of Labour History in Australia.....Bob James
This talk was given by Bob James to the Wollongong Labour History Society in August 1997. It was published as Benefit Societies and Freemasons in Labour History in Illawarra Unity, Vol 1, No 3, 1998, Journal of the Illawarra Branch of ASSLH. Bob asked for this to replace the notes for his talk he gave in Melbourne. Bob presents some provocative facts to challenge the Labour History orthodoxy. Includes information on secret societies, Benefit Societies and Freemasons in Labour History.
Other Sources of Interest
- Open University - Friendly Societies Research Group
- Mutuality-UK Email Discussion List:
To examine issues relating to the development and history of friendly societies, co-operation, workers and consumers co-operatives, credit unions, building societies and other mutuals. To exchange information about their origins, their links, their activities and their future.
- David Green & Lawrence Cromwell, Mutual Aid or Welfare State. Australia's Friendly Societies, published by George Allen & Unwin, 1984, ISBN 0 86861 664 8
- The History of The Grand United
Order of Oddfellows As told through articles from the official magazine of The Grand United Order of Oddfellows written by Bro. E.W. "Bob" Lindop PGM/PGT
- Fraternal World
"Is all about People Helping People." Lots of links to Fraternal societies, Benefit and Friendly Societies. Anyone interested in co-operative or mutualist organisation should explore these links. Located at: http://www.fratworld.org/
- Toward a Fraternal History of Marin County
Toward a Fraternal History of Marin County: A Survey of Secret Societies being a General History of Various Fraternities
and Their Specific Impact in Marin. By Stanley J. Bransgrove. Thought provoking history from California which mirrors in part the Australian research by Dr Bob James. Located at: http://mill-valley.freemasonry.biz/marin-fraternities.htm
- Australian Centre For Fraternal Studies. The Centre for Fraternal Studies (CFS) is a Research, Conservation and Display facility furthering the study of fraternalism and the neglected world of fraternal associations, ie, in the main, trade unions, friendly societies and Freemasons. The Centre is based in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, where its Convenor and Co-ordinator is Dr Bob James. It is located within the Newcastle Regional Museum complex
How to contact Dr Bob James
or to submit general feedback
with questions or comments about this web site.
This Page is: http://www.takver.com/history/benefit/index.htm
Last modified: April 7, 2007