The article begins with a discussion of labour intellectuals as knowledge producers in labour institutions, and of the labour public in which this distinctive kind of intellectual emerges, drawing on our previously published work. Next we construct a typology of three ‘‘modes’’ of the labour intellectual that were proclaimed and remade from the 1890s (the ‘‘movement’’ the ‘‘representational’’, and the ‘‘revolutionary’’), and identify the broad historical processes (certification, polarization, and contraction) of the labour public. In a case study comparing the 1890s and 1920s we demonstrate how successive generations of labour intellectuals combined elements of these ideal types in different ways to develop traditions of intellectual work. The article concludes with a sketch of the labour public after the crisis of the 1920s. It considers the rise of the ‘‘militant’’ intellectual in the 1930s, the role of publicists, planners and experts in the 1940s, the skill of ‘‘generalship’’ in the polarized 1940s and 1950s, the failure to meet the challenge of the new social movements in the 1970s, and the decline of the agitational, movement-identified intellectual.