Joseph Arch

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Arch, Joseph (1826–1919). Trade unionist and politician. Arch was the son of a Warwickshire farm labourer and began work on the farm at the age of 9 scaring birds. He gained experience in public speaking as a primitive methodist lay preacher and in 1872 launched a National Agricultural Labourers' Union. It had considerable success and wages on farms improved, though numbers dwindled in the face of strong counter-attacks by landlords and farmers. Arch entered Parliament as a Liberal in 1885 but was defeated the following year: he served again from 1892 until 1900—the first farm labourer in the House of Commons. He published an autobiography in 1898.

J. A. Cannon

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Joseph Arch, 1826–1919, English labor leader, a Primitive Methodist preacher. He founded the National Agricultural Labourers Union in 1872 and became its president. In 1873, Arch visited Canada and the United States to study labor and immigration problems. He served (1885–86, 1892–1900) as one of the first labor members in Parliament and was instrumental in enfranchising agricultural workers.

See his autobiography (ed. by the countess of Warwick, 1898); biography by P. Horn (1971).