Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Comparative Labour History in Britain and Australia

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2005), 88, (1), 9–24.

Abstract

The comparative method is a valuable tool for understanding labour history in Australia and the UK. This paper defines comparative labour history and examines the various benefits and problems of comparative research. The article then looks at the use of comparative labour history in Australia and UK. It argues that comparative analysis plays a marginal role in both labour historiographies due to a strong empiricist tradition. This tradition also mitigates against a sophisticated discussion of both concepts and comparative method. Where comparative method is used, there is a bias towards ‘Anglo-Saxon’ countries partially due to limited non-English language skills. Among UK historians who focus on the UK, academic links with many parts of the former British Empire, including the USA, are stronger than they are with Europe. When Australian labour historians have adopted a comparative approach, it focuses on ‘settler societies’ such as Canada and the USA, where there is a common interest in general questions such as the ‘frontier’ and more specific issues such as scientific management and the Industrial Workers of the World. The article concludes by arguing that comparative labour history has to take into account the streams of cultural transfer between nationally constituted labour movements to produce better results.

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Author details

Berger, Stefan

Patmore, Greg

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
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1810
1911
2012
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