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May Day (International Workers’ Day)

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Authored by Nathaniel Andrews
Published on 1st May, 2022 1 min read

May Day (International Workers’ Day)

A banner reads "8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest".

Today (01/05/2022) is International Workers’ Day (or ‘May Day’), an annual event observed all over the world to celebrate the history of organised labour, and to campaign for better working and living conditions. The first May Day event took place in 1889, to commemorate the victims of the so-called‘ Haymarket Affair’ of 1886. That year, campaigners in support of an eight-hour working day had gathered in Chicago to protest and, following an outbreak of violence, the authorities had subsequently executed four of the protestors. 

These reprisals marked the start of a severe repression of the labour movement in the United States and, in response, May Day was transformed into an annual day of protest, and an affirmation of workers’ rights. Since its inception, May Day has been celebrated by socialists, communists, and anarchists, and trade unions in many countries (including the UK) continue to organise and participate in May Day demonstrations, to demand a fairer society.

Authored by Nathaniel Andrews

Nathaniel Andrews

Nathaniel Andrews is Senior Editor at British Online Archives, and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute. Between October 2018 and September 2021, he taught in the Schools of History and Languages at the University of Leeds, and between September 2021 and June 2022, he was a Lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Cultural Studies at the University of Manchester. His research centres primarily on the history of anarchism in the Hispanic World and North America, and he has several publications on the Spanish and Argentinian labour movements. He is currently working on his first monograph.

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Notable Days


The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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