National Hunger March, 1932

The National Hunger March of September–October 1932 was the largest[1] of a series of hunger marches in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s.



Hunger marches to London had previously taken place in 1922–23, 1929[2] and 1930,[3] and 1927 had seen a South Wales miners' march.[4] Due to the Great Depression and mass unemployment, throughout 1932 there was a profound atmosphere of unrest across Britain with "high tension across the country", "running battles between police and demonstrators" and "violent clashes ... between the police and unemployed protestors in Merseyside, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Coventry, Nottingham, Oldham, Porthcawl, Stoke, Wigan, Preston, Bolton and Belfast",[5] many of which followed protests organised by the communist-led[6] National Unemployed Workers' Movement (NUWM).

The march

With unemployment at 2,750,000,[7] the 1932 National Unemployed Workers' Movement organised "Great National Hunger March against the Means Test" included about 3,000 people[8] in eighteen contingents of marchers,[9] mainly from economically depressed areas such as the South Wales Valleys, Scotland and the North of England designed to meet up in Hyde Park in London. A petition containing a million signatures demanding the abolition of the means test and the 1931 Anomalies Act[10] was intended to be presented to Parliament after a rally in the park.[11]

The first contingent of marchers left Glasgow on 26 September,[12][13] and the marchers were greeted by a crowd of about 100,000 upon their arrival at Hyde Park on 27 October 1932.[14] The marchers had not received much in the way of media publicity on their way to London, but having reached the capital, "...they met an almost blanket condemnation as a threat to public order, verging upon the hysterical in the case of some of the more conservative press".[15] Stanley Baldwin's government used force to stop the petition reaching parliament, with it being confiscated by the police.[16] Fearing disorder, the police deployment was Britain's most extensive public order precaution since 1848[17] and Lord Trenchard, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner mobilised a total police force of 70,000 against the marchers and their supporters.[18] Serious violence erupted in and around the park, with mounted police being used to disperse the demonstrators,[19] and across central London in the days to come with 75 people being badly injured.[20] Home Secretary Sir John Gilmour was questioned about the ongoing disturbances in the House of Commons.[21]


The march led directly to the formation of the National Council for Civil Liberties. Its founder, Ronald Kidd, set up the Council as he was concerned about the use of agent provocateurs by the police to incite violence during and after the 1932 marches.[22]

The 1932 march was followed by another in 1934[23] and others, including the 1936 Jarrow March.


  1. ^ Cook, Chris and Bewes, Diccon; What Happened Where: A Guide To Places And Events In Twentieth-Century History p. 115; Routledge, 1997 ISBN 1857285336
  2. ^ Lavalette, Michael and Mooney, Gerry; Class Struggle and Social Welfare p. 132; Routledge, 2000 ISBN 0415201055
  3. ^ Morgan, Jane; Conflict and Order: The Police and Labour Disputes in England and Wales, 1900-1939 p. 242; Clarendon Press, 1987 ISBN 0198201281
  4. ^ Burnett, John; Idle Hands: The Experience of Unemployment, 1790-1990, p. 256; Routledge, 1994 ISBN 0415055016
  5. ^ Ewing, Keith D. and Gearty, C.A., The Struggle for Civil Liberties: Political Freedom and the Rule of Law in Britain, 1914-1945; p. 220, Oxford University Press, 2001 ISBN 0198762518
  6. ^ Marwick, Arthur; A History of the Modern British Isles, 1914-1999: Circumstances, Events, and Outcomes p. 110; Blackwell Publishing, 2000 ISBN 063119522X
  7. ^ Cohen, Percy; Unemployment Insurance and Assistance in Britain p. 39; George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd, 1938
  8. ^ Jenkins, Alan; The Thirties, p. 43; Stein and Day, 1976
  9. ^ Laybourn, Keith; Britain on the Breadline: A Social and Political History of Britain Between the Wars, p. 33; Alan Sutton, 1990 ISBN 086299490X
  10. ^ Hannington, Wal; Ten Lean Years - An Examination of the Record of the National Government in the Field of Unemployment: An Examination of the Record of the National Government in the Field of Unemployment, p. 52; Read Books, 2006; ISBN 1406798118
  11. ^ Cook, Chris and Bewes, Diccon; What Happened Where: A Guide To Places And Events In Twentieth-Century History p. 115; Routledge, 1997 ISBN 1857285336
  12. ^ Hannington, Wal; Unemployed Struggles, 1919-1936: My Life and Struggles Amongst the Unemployed, p. 237; Barnes & Noble Books, 1973 ISBN 0854098372
  13. ^ Ewing, Keith D. and Gearty, C.A., The Struggle for Civil Liberties: Political Freedom and the Rule of Law in Britain, 1914-1945; p. 220, Oxford University Press, 2001 ISBN 0198762518
  14. ^ Cronin, James E.; Labour and Society in Britain, 1918-1979, p. 96; Batsford Academic and Educational, 1984, ISBN 0713443952
  15. ^ Waddington, David P.; Contemporary Issues in Public Disorder: A Comparative and Historical Approach p. 31, quoting Stevenson & Cook 1979:173; Routledge, 1992 ISBN 0415079136
  16. ^ Worley, Matthew; Class Against Class: The Communist Party in Britain Between the Wars p. 296; I.B.Tauris, 2002 ISBN 1860647472
  17. ^ Thurlow, Richard C.; Fascism in Britain: From Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts to the National Front p. 63; I.B.Tauris, 1998 ISBN 186064337X
  18. ^ Hannington, Wal; The Problem of the Distressed Areas - An Examination of Poverty and Unemployment: An Examination of Poverty and Unemployment, p. 195; Read Books, 2006; ISBN 1406798495
  19. ^ Lewis, Gail; Forming Nation, Framing Welfare, p. 197; Routledge, 1998 ISBN 0415181291
  20. ^ Hitchner, Dell Gillette; Civil Liberties in England from 1914 to 1940 p. 144; University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1940
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Rose, Sonya O.; Which People's War?: National Identity and Citizenship in Britain, 1939-1945 p. 30; Oxford University Press, 2003 ISBN 0199255725

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