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International Socialism, Summer 1962


James Buchanan

The Lanark Tradition


From International Socialism (1st series), No.9, Summer 1962, p.33.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Third Statistical Account of Scotland: The County of Lanark
George Thomson (ed.)
Collins. 42s.

The first two Accounts of Scotland were compiled about 1790 and 1840, and the third, now being issued, will bring up to date the detailed description, in words and figures, of every county in Scotland.

This volume gives a clear account of modern Lanarkshire: the southern part hilly, sparsely populated and largely agricultural; the north crowded and heavily industrialized. It also describes the development of the county since the time of the Second Account (c. 1840): the great expansion of coal and iron industry; the depression when the rich local deposits were worked out; and the slow, painful change to a modern economy.

Lanarkshire was naturally a centre of radical, and socialist activity. New Lanark was the scene of Robert Owen’s experiment, and there was a later attempt to found a socialistic community at Orbiston. At Strathaven there is still an annual demonstration in memory of Purly Wilson who was hanged after the Radical rising of 1820. As early as that small miners’ unions were common in spite of the Combination Acts, and one of the oldest existing co-operative societies, the Larkhall Victualling Society, was founded over 20 years before the Rochdale pioneers. Lanarkshire was the home of four great socialist leaders: Alexander MacDonald, the first miners’ MP; Keir Hardie; Bob Smillie, who lived at Larkhall though he was born in Belfast; and William Small, less famous than the others but a great teacher and organizer. Some radical tradition is left, for even now 6 of the 7 constituencies return Labour MPs.

This volume, like the others in the series, is an invaluable work of reference for sociologists, economists and historians. Its value is permanent, and it will remain useful so long as there are people left to consult it. The editor, George Thomson, and his many helpers deserve to be satisfied.

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