Labour History

The Australian Place in Comparative Labour History

Labour History (2011), 100, (1), 167–188.


The conceptualisation of labour history has traditionally focused on national working classes and organised labour movements, although its Australian variants have always been implicitly informed by a comparative perspective based on notions of the ‘Workingman’s Paradise’. In the past three or more decades explicitly comparative labour history in Australia has undergone significant expansion, led byLabour History. Although there are numerous comparative approaches, national institutional comparisons of a small number of similar - Anglo Saxon, settler - countries dominate these efforts. This approach has by no means exhausted its possibilities, but comparative endeavours also need to expand beyond it to realise the comparative potential. There have been beginnings with comparisons of social trends and themes, such as racism, gender, and urbanisation to name just some. Perhaps the greatest potential for breaking free from the shackles of ‘methodological nationalism’ lies in transnational historiographical approaches, focusing on shared experiences and processes beyond national boundaries.

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Author details

Markey, Raymond