Labour History

Class, Skill and Control in a Southern City: The Case of the Dunedin Branch of the ASE c. 1880-1920

Labour History (2010), 99, (1), 77–96.


Skilled workers and their unions have long held a central place in New Zealand labour history. While there has been much written about the economic position and industrial and political mobilisation of the skilled, less is known about their lives in terms of marital and residential differentiation and segregation, and their activities in voluntary associations. This article adopts a micro-historical approach and uses Hobsbawm’s ‘aristocracy of labour’ criteria to describe and interpret the economic and social position of members of the Dunedin branch of a New Zealand trade union, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, for skilled engineering workers. In doing so, it makes reference to a large body of work that examines the process of class formation in one of New Zealand’s oldest industrial suburbs.

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74.John Stone’sDirectory of Otago and Southlandfor 1919 and 1920 shows that 19.6 per cent of the membership had changed place of residence since 1917. Google Scholar

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Author details

Ryan, Shaun