Ramsay MacDonald (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: The most significant figure in the development of the Labour Party, MacDonald guided it through his voluminous political writings, his organizational acumen and skills, and his actions as prime minister of its first two governments. The party became in practice more reformist than Socialist. It grew as a broad-based party aspiring to govern rather than a small pressure group within Parliament; it tapped trade union strength but rebuffed trade union control.
James Ramsay MacDonald was born on October 12, 1866, in the small fishing village of Lossiemouth, in Morayshire, Scotland, the illegitimate son of a ploughman and a farm servant. His mother, Anne Ramsay, a determined but warmhearted woman, never married and supported herself and her son as a seamstress. Influenced by an exciting schoolteacher, MacDonald became a pupil-teacher for four years (1881-1885), developing skills in analysis, speaking, leadership, and organization in his teens. Because class distinctions were of less significance in the Scottish Highlands, MacDonald was rising on his own merits. As a young man, he had already developed both his romantic and pragmatic tendencies, had an inquiring mind (he always loved geology and biology and once thought of becoming a chemist), and had become a local public speaker. He was impressive physically: handsome with wavy hair (and he was soon to wear a mustache), tall and trim, with a...
(The entire section is 2828 words.)
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