By 1997 British trade unionists had endured 17 years of sustained, historically unprecedented decline. The major damage in terms of membership loss was inflicted during the recessions of the early 1980s and 1990s: the unfavourable trend continued throughout the Conservative era. The last major reverse for the unions had occurred six decades earlier, in the dozen years between 1921 and 1933; but thereafter recovery commenced. In the early 1990s decline was accelerating ten years after it began; and unlike in the 1920s there were no years of growth (Bain and Price 1983; McIlroy 1995: 385-8).