To anyone familiar with the history of the British labour movement in this century, Ernest Bevin needs no introduction. Shortly after World War I, he founded the Transport and General Workers' Union, which is today the largest trade union in Britain. He was, with Trade Union Congress General Secretary Walter Citrine, largely responsible for the direction that the British trade union movement took after the General Strike of 1926. After the financial crisis of 1931, he played a significant role in the reshaping of the Labour Party's policy that became the basis of the programme enacted by the 1945 Labour Government. In 1940, aged 59, he began a new career, overseeing the wartime government's labour policies and in the process contributing to the creation of the postwar welfare state. After World War II, in what to many contemporary observers seemed the most surprising move of his long career, Bevin served as Foreign Secretary in the 1945 Labour Government, helping to shape the international order that prevailed for the next 40 years.
In short, Bevin's career was centrally important to the development of both the British labour movement and British politics in the first half of the 20th century. This biography has employed two related concepts, labourism and corporatism, to explain the shape taken by the British labour movement, and to explore Bevin's life-long influence on trade unionism.