De geschiedenis van het Britsche vakvereenigingswezen by Sidney and Beatrice Webb


De geschiedenis van het Britsche vakvereenigingswezen by Sidney and Beatrice Webb and translated by Henri Polak. Published in Amsterdam in 1899. 8vo, linen bound 443 pages. The overall condition of the book is very good, there are two ex-libris on the inside of the cover.

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Henri Polak (Amsterdam, February 22, 1868 – Laren, February 18, 1943) was one of the most prominent Dutch union administrators from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century and also a prominent social-democratic politician. Henri Polak was the eldest son of Moses Polak, a Jewish brilliant cutter and jeweler, and Marianna Smit. At the age of 13, he had to drop out of his father’s school to work as an apprentice diamond cutter and to help support the large family. In 1886, 18-year-old Polak left for London, where he first came into contact with socialist ideas. There he married on August 9, 1888 Emily Nijkerk (1868-1943), also Jewish and of Dutch descent. Back in the Netherlands, he and a group of friends of Jewish Social Democrats developed a great interest in art and culture and social issues. He made up for his missed school education by self-study. From 1891 on, Polak became increasingly active in politics and journalism. Polak was best known as a co-founder (1894) and long-term chairman (1894-1940) of the General Dutch Diamond Workers Association (ANDB). In 1892 he first became a member and later secretary of a predecessor, the only very small Dutch Diamond Workers’ Association. When a general strike among the 10,000 Amsterdam diamond workers unexpectedly broke out in November 1894, he became one of the leaders of the successful strike committee. In this crisis situation he turned out to be a handy organizer, convincing speaker and quick decision-maker. When the strike committee managed to found a new union – the aforementioned ANDB – shortly after the victory, Polak, only 26 years old, was elected chairman. In his later years, he was also committed to nature conservation and urban beauty. He died in the war at the age of almost 75 in the hospital of pneumonia. His wife was deported shortly afterwards to Westerbork transit camp, where she died.


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