Martin Upham was born in 1947 and grew up in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. From the age of 11 he travelled six days a week to the Salesian College School in Cowley, Oxford – the nearest Catholic secondary school. He was educated at the Universities of Manchester (Politics and Modern History), Bristol (full-length thesis, Shelley’s Utopian Socialism), and Hull (doctoral thesis The History of British Trotskyism to 1949). http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/revhist/upham/upmen.htm ).
From 1969 to 1979 he was a member of the Militant Tendency, a Trotskyist group trying to build a mass Marxist movement out of the Labour Party. Involvement in the national steel strike (see below) moved him to a wider stage. A member of the Labour Party since 1966, he stood as Parliamentary Candidate for Harborough (1983), and Enfield North (1987, 1992). In 1994 he opposed Tony Blair’s proposal to drop Clause IV, Part IV of the party’s constitution – a unpopular stance that has been vindicated by time. In 1996 he ended thirty years of Labour Party membership and has been an independent socialist ever since.
During the turbulent years 1975-88 Martin Upham worked for the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC), then Britain’s largest steel union. He was the principal union author of the case for retaining a major UK steel industry and rebutted the specious productivity arguments of the Conservative government and British Steel. (These arguments were later distilled into the ISTC publication, New Deal for Steel.) During the national steel strike of January-April 1980 he edited a tabloid, Steelworkers’ Banner, widely acclaimed for its popular exposition of the case for steel. In the 1980s he sought to defend individual steel plants, to achieve a more radical leadership of ISTC and briefed the Labour Front Bench in its resistance to the privatisation of the industry.
When ISTC’s leadership acquiesced in steel privatisation he left its employ to pursue a freelance career, authoring a number of industrial relations reference books for Longman (later John Harper publications). He gave lectures in politics and history to students of Birkbeck College, University of London, the Open University, the Working Men’s College and others. In 1990 he taught his first study abroad class to the St Lawrence University semester in London, to which was later added others including the University of Notre Dame and AHA International. In 1997 he published Tempered – Not quenched, the history of the ISTC. For AHA four years later he co-edited A Visitor’s Britain, a compendium of essays on the country’s life and culture and in 2004 became AHA’s first full-time director.
During a decade at AHA he built on its reputation for delivering quality programmes in a safe environment, achieved the move to permanent premises in Bloomsbury, launched an expanding programme of Summer schools, established its charitable status and founded a functioning board. With London the fastest-growing AHA site globally he left in 2014 to resume his writing career.
Since Spring 2014 Martin has been reviewing regularly for Labour Briefing and engaging in the debate on Scottish independence via the letters page of the Financial Times. He has two research projects on hand: a new incarnation, this time in e-form, of A Visitor’s Britain, and an historical novel. When not writing, swimming, learning to garden, Pevsnering about, or travelling by rail in Europe and the UK, he can be seen (and heard) passionately participating in three classical choirs.