James Keir Hardie (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Through agitation and enthusiasm, Hardie, more than any other person, helped inspire and organize both the Independent Labour Party and then the more broadly based Labour Party, which became one of Great Britain’s two major parties after World War I.
James Keir Hardie was born on August 15, 1856, in a small mining village in Lanarkshire, Scotland, the illegitimate child of a farm servant, Mary Keir. Keir later married David Hardie, an erratically employed ship’s carpenter. They had a large family, and two of James’s half brothers later became Labour Members of Parliament (M.P.’s). Constant moves and an unsteady income meant that the family circumstances were more like that of unskilled workers than of artisans. Young James was never apprenticed but began working odd jobs at age seven while in Glasgow. When the family moved back to the Lanarkshire coalfields, ten-year-old Hardie started working in the pits and continued working there until his early twenties. Already, Hardie’s boldness, energy, and romanticism were apparent. Having been taught to read at home, he received his only formal education at a night school, improving his writing and learning shorthand. An avid reader, Hardie was enraptured with Robert Burns, both for his Scottish style and for his egalitarian ideas. Reared an agnostic, in his early twenties Hardie was converted to Christianity and joined the Evangelical...
(The entire section is 2151 words.)
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