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18 June 2014
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Work
Clydeside: When the Workshop of the World Shut Up Shop

Glasgow street, 1897
Glasgow street, 1897
© Scran
This was boom time for the Clyde: an age of industrial growth that would remain in the cultural consciousness of the Scotland for a long time after the capital that sustained it had gone; however, it would be false to assume that the average worker on Clydeside was wealthy in any way. Glasgow was still plagued by poverty, poor public health and terrible housing, and although these problems were more intensive in Glasgow where industry was concentrated, it was by no means a trend confined to Clydeside.

In 1911 up to 50% of the whole Scottish population lived in 1 or 2 roomed accommodation; comparatively, the figure was as low as 7% in England. This wasn’t merely because there was a shortage of housing, because in Glasgow just before the outbreak of the Great War a 10th of the city’s houses were empty, it was because many couldn’t afford the rent.

However, Scottish unemployment rates stood at only 1.8% the year before the First World War broke out in 1913, and although wages were often very low in real terms, at least most families had a regular wage coming into the household. By 1923 Scottish unemployment stood at 14.3%, and this was much worse on Clydeside – the shipyards had lost more than half of their workers.

By 1932, the average male rate of unemployment in Scotland was a little under 30%; in shipbuilding and mining areas this climbed to over 50%. The social and political effects of Clydeside’s great industrial slump were huge, and would change the cultural face of the whole of Scotland forever. So what exactly happened?


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