Bevin, Ernest (bĕvˈən) [key], 1881–1951, British labor leader and statesman. An orphan who earned his own living from childhood, he began a long career as a trade union official when he became secretary of the dockworkers' union in 1911. In 1921, Bevin merged his own union with many others to form the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union, of which he became general secretary. From 1925 to 1940 he sat on the general council of the Trade Union Congress, serving as chairman in 1937. Bevin played a leading organizing role in the general strike of 1926, but after the failure of that strike he worked to achieve greater cooperation between labor and the employers. He was enormously influential in Labour party politics in the 1930s but did not enter Parliament until invited to join Winston Churchill's coalition government in 1940. In that government he was minister of labor and national service and thus was responsible for mobilizing manpower for war uses. As foreign minister in the Labour government of 1945 to 1951, Bevin devoted himself to building up the strength of Western Europe in close cooperation with the United States and helped lay the groundwork for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He favored the establishment of a federated Arab-Israeli state in Palestine, but that proved impossible to achieve.
See biography by A. Bullock (3 vol., 1960–83).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.