Refabricating labour history; or, from labour history to the history of labour

Joyce, Patrick
June 1997
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Summer1997, Vol. 62 Issue 2, p147
Academic Journal
In this article the author comments on labor history. The main characteristics of an older labor history still appear widely apparent, indeed dominant, and this seems so for the U.S. labor history as well as British. Forms of materialism dominate, tied to Marxism with varying degrees of strength. This, often instinctive, materialism isolates the economic as ultimately of greatest significance. Industrialization is seen as the central element in this envisioning of the economic. Within industrialization proletarianisation and class provide twin poles of the metanarrative, between them bridging the space held to connect the economic, and the political and cultural. This world is the product of particular times and places, which invite the attention of labor historians themselves. At one level, there could usefully be an account of public life and politics, which would span the twentieth-century history of the left. This history would certainly be international, and bring but the very important similarities between different national traditions, for instance those of Great Britain and the U.S. But at the same time, there seems something very British, and sometimes very English, about British labor history.


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