The articles drawn together in the thematic section, ‘Struggling for Recognition: the Individual in Labour History’, reveal the diversity of experience and interpretation that opens before the historian seeking to understand and explain how often marginalised historical actors engaged in political or industrial activism, or simply coped with their circumstances. Struggles for security, justice and recognition formed a constant preoccupation and stimulus to action for the subjects under discussion. This article addresses the issue of how historians are to stand in relation to their chosen biographical subjects, and explores various forms of innovative methodology that may assist historians to construct a rigorous analysis. A focus on gender also clarifies that the construction of identity is a crucial element in the subject’s response to class, nation and race, and biography can play an important role in exploring how these dynamics are developed and expressed. Finally, the article focuses on the relationship between Australian labour historiography and the study of the individual.