Labour History Review

Challenge, Crisis, and Renewal? Themes in the Labour History of Britain, 1960–2010

Labour History Review (2010), 75, (2), 162–180.

Abstract

This article provides an overview of some of the main characteristics and developments in the labour history of Britain from the foundation of the Society for the Study of Labour History in 1960 to 2010. The article maintains that the labour history surveyed has been predominantly pragmatic, eclectic and empirical in character and that it has played an important part in key debates, such as those revolving around history from below, institutionalism versus the social history of labour, class, populism, gender, language, postmodernism and the turn to politics. In opposition to the various claims that labour history is in terminal decline or already extinct, the article shows that the subject area continues to display an impressive capacity for innovation, modification and renewal. Yet there is no scope for complacency. The labour history of Britain has recently displayed worrying signs of a retreat into conservative insularity and academicism. The keys to future growth in Britain lie in a more extensive and critical engagement with the kinds of comparative, transnational and global concerns increasingly popular among labour historians across the world and the revival of labour history as a subject of public and political rather than simply academic significance.

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Author details

Kirk, Neville