Ernest Bevin

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Bevin, Ernest

(bĕv`ən), 1881–1951, British labor leader and statesman. An orphan who earned his own living from childhood, he began a long career as a trade union official when he became secretary of the dockworkers' union in 1911. In 1921, Bevin merged his own union with many others to form the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union, of which he became general secretary. From 1925 to 1940 he sat on the general council of the Trade Union Congress, serving as chairman in 1937. Bevin played a leading organizing role in the general strike of 1926, but after the failure of that strike he worked to achieve greater cooperation between labor and the employers. He was enormously influential in Labour party politics in the 1930s but did not enter Parliament until invited to join Winston Churchill's coalition government in 1940. In that government he was minister of labor and national service and thus was responsible for mobilizing manpower for war uses. As foreign minister in the Labour government of 1945 to 1951, Bevin devoted himself to building up the strength of Western Europe in close cooperation with the United States and helped lay the groundwork for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He favored the establishment of a federated Arab-Israeli state in Palestine, but that proved impossible to achieve.


See biography by A. Bullock (3 vol., 1960–83).

Bevin, Ernest


Born Mar. 9,1881, in Winsford; died Apr. 14, 1951, in London. English political figure. One of the right-wing leaders of the Labour Party and of trade unions.

Bevin was an agricultural worker and chauffeur until 1909. From 1910 to 1921 he was one of the leaders of the Dockers’ Union. From 1922 to 1940 he was general secretary of the united Transport and General Workers’ Union. He was a member of the general council of the British Trades Union Congress from 1925 to 1940, and he served as its chairman in 1937. From 1940 to 1945 he was minister of labor and national service in W. Churchill’s coalition government. He was foreign secretary of C. Attlee’s Labour government from 1945 to 1951, with a foreign policy course that aimed at escalating the cold war and creating anti-Soviet military blocs. Bevin worked to implement the Marshall Plan, as well as the Brussels (1948) and North Atlantic (1949) pacts. He supported the policies of a divided Germany and a remilitarized West Germany.


Williams, F. E. Bevin. London, [1952].
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Because many existing miners had been called up to the armed forces, wartime Labour and National Service Minister Ernest Bevin was forced to organise a ballot to find new recruits.
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One almost gains the impression that, at least in international affairs, Britain's metalworkers' unions rivaled the position of the Trades Union Congress, and that one of the metalworkers' leaders, Jack Tanner of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, measured up to such TUC leaders as Ernest Bevin and Walter Citrine in stature and influence.
Basically, Churchill was an individualist who had an instinctive mistrust of government action in the service of vested interests, be they the church, the military, the aristocracy, or manufacturing interests - not to mention the Conservative Party establishment from Joseph Chamberlain in the 1900s to his son Neville in the 30s or the Labor Party of Ernest Bevin and Clement Attlee in the '40s and early 50s.
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This remarkable decision was the result of a policy made by a Government minister call Ernest Bevin who, as Minister of Labour in Winston Churchill's 1940 coalition Government, had complete control over the allocation of manpower.