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Trent Scholars Initiate Worldwide Network of Labour History Journals
May 5, 2007

Trent University faculty led a significant workshop for international labour history journal editors from May 11 to 12 on Symons Campus. Organized by Professor Joan Sangster, the principal investigator of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-supported research cluster on Work & Society, the gathering brought together editors of the world’s leading journals on this subject.

The purpose of the gathering was to further initiatives towards internationalization of the field of labour and working-class history. A network of journals was established, and a commitment made to meet at two-year intervals in the future, sponsoring workshops and exchanging translations of specific publications of broad interest.

According to Professor Bryan Palmer, a Canada Research Chair in Canadian Studies at Trent University and editor of Labour/Le Travail, the dialogue generated by this workshop advanced the field of labour history significantly. "The workshop was helpful and instructive in terms of allowing journal editors in the field of labour studies to share basic information, gain perspective on common concerns, and move forward in their own domains by gaining appreciation of how other journals face specific issues and problems," explained Prof. Palmer.

Among the many topics discussed were the state of the fields of working-class and labour history in various countries; the need for more sustained research, publication, and promotion of transnational histories; the importance of developing new areas of interest within the broad field of labour studies; and the significance of online publication and its many meanings of the dissemination of research findings.

"Of special interest was the need to popularize scholarship findings in the field of labour studies, reaching broader audiences through various initiatives that spread beyond the traditional publication of scholarly articles," noted Prof. Palmer. Creative methods of sharing this work were explored at the workshop in discussions that addressed the possibilities inherent in local labour history societies; in extending connections to the labour movement and other audiences; in encouraging interest in younger scholars by highlighting the relevance of labour studies to such contempoary areas of interest as globalization; and in exploring the relevance of work to a range of artistic and representational forms, including video, music, and cinema.

Global participants included Canada (Bryan Palmer, Labour/Le Travail); the United States (Leon Fink, Labor and Peter Winn, International Labor and Working Class History); England (June Hannam, Labour History Review); Spain (Vicente Sanz Rozalen); the Netherlands (Marcel van der Linden, International Review of Social History); Sweden (Silke Neusinger, Arbetarhistoria); and Australia (Greg Patmore, Labour History). Other invited guests included Professors Todd McCallum (Dalhousie, History Department); Steven Tufts (Geography, Trent, who works with the on-line journal of Canadian labour studies, Just Labour); Jeffrey Taylor, Chair of the Labour Studies program at Athabasca University; and Wade Matthews, a Canadian Research Council post-doctoral fellow at Trent.

All of the journal editors in attendance looked forward to future collaborations and to extending the network to the global south, where interest has been expressed by those involved in the field in Asia and Latin America.