14 Nov:
Let’s Go On Strike

Workers involved in tomb construction in the Valley of the Kings staged the earliest recorded strike in history on 14th November, 1157 B.C. Having not been paid their ration of food for 18 days, they set about disrupting temple life and rituals, to the shock of Pharaoh Ramses III’s administration.

The workers’ struggle wasn’t solely about wages; it reflected broader discontent, too, as they voiced concerns about alleged corruption, such as barley being replaced with dirt in payments. And the strike indicated a shift in the workers’ perceptions, as they realised they couldn’t rely solely on the divine authority of the Pharaoh to meet their basic needs.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how Ancient Egypt was financially decimated by the suppression of the ‘Sea Peoples’; explain how an offer of cake was (unsurprisingly) not enough to pacify the protests; and consider whether the workers’ picket-line slogans needed a little workshopping… 

Further Reading:

• ‘When Was The First Strike In History?’ (HistoryExtra, 2016): https://www.historyextra.com/period/ancient-egypt/when-first-strike-history/

• ‘Red Traces, Part 4: Strikers and Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt’ (Counterfire, 2023): https://www.counterfire.org/article/red-traces-part-4-strikers-and-pharaohs-in-ancient-egypt/

• ’Rameses III Describes Invasion Of Sea Peoples’ (Voices of the Past, 2020):