The first documented strike in history is thought to be that held by the craftsmen working on the royal necopolis at Deir el-Medina, in the mid-12th century BC.
Although slaves were carrying out much of the work on Ancient Egyptian structures, many paid builders and craftsmen were brought in to make up the workforce.
Under the rule of Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses III, the workers grew resentful against their insufficient and late rations, so threw down their tools and stopped working. They organised what may have been the first-ever sit-down protest in history, which they carried out in the mortuary.
The event is recorded in a single papyrus, which details the workers complaining that: “The prospect of hunger and thirst has driven us to this.”
After negotiations with the local officials, the strikers were eventually granted provisions and agreed to return to work. In fact, their wages actually went up. A lucky escape as it could be assumed that a pharoah wouldn’t put up with rebellious subjects in a reasonable manner.
This article was first published in the February 2016 issue of History Revealed and answered by one of our Q&A experts, Emily Brand.