Labour History

Labour and Politics

Labour History (2011), 100, (1), 105–126.


Labour-in-politics was once the most privileged genre of Australian labour history. Studies of the Australian Labor Party, together with biographies of the party’s leading lights, dominated much of the Old Left-influenced scholarship until the late 1960s. From the 1970s onwards, however, the rise of social history and the highly-charged attacks of the New Left challenged such party-political dominance. Such histories were increasingly written by political scientists or outside of academe altogether. At the twentieth century’s turn, labour-in-politics appeared to be in terminal decline; an interpretation that persists to this day. By contrast, this historiographical article contends that politically-themed labour history is in rude health; close attention to culture and discourse, combined with a well-contextualised sensitivity to the role of gender and race, has enlivened rather than superseded the genre. Similarly, studies of localism and the trend towards transnational and comparative history are increasingly fleshing out themes of native exceptionalism.

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81.Two general histories of the ALP are scheduled for release:Tom Bramble andRick Kuhn, Labor’s Conflict: Big Business, Workers and the Politics of Class,Cambridge University Press,, 2010, andNick Dyrenfurth andFrank Bongiorno, A Little History of the Australian Labor Party,University of New South Wales Press,, 2011. See alsoNick Dyrenfurth, ‘It’s the culture, stupid!’, inNick Dyrenfurth andTim Soutphommasane(eds), All That’s Left: What Labor Should Stand For,University of New South Wales Press,, 2010. Google Scholar

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Author details

Dyrenfurth, Nick