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The political economy of globalization: the genesis of Dundee's two 'United Fronts' in the 1930s

Cambridge University Press
Publication Date
  • Economics
  • Law


Economic globalization has been a key force shaping British society since the mid nineteenth-century. This article uses a case-study of Dundee and its jute industry to examine the major issues that have arisen as the effects of those global forces have been responded to. Dundee was especially prone to detrimental effects from globalization because of its character as ‘juteopolis’, a one industry town with that industry subject to powerful competitive pressures from Calcutta producers from the 1880s onwards. In the 1930s these pressures became overwhelming, as cheap jute goods from India undercut the Dundee industry's home as well as export markets, and mass unemployment ensued. The local responses to this pressure were sharply divergent. There was both a ‘United Front’ between many elements in the local labour movement, mirroring the much-contested national calls for joint Labour and Communist party efforts, and a quite different ‘front’ bringing together jute employers, jute unions, local MPs, and the city council to call for protection for the industry. It is argued that this divergence can be used to explore key issues in the nature of the forces, national as well as local, operating on industrial cities and their populations.

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