Collective Strategies

In this project cluster the IISH studies the ‘weapons of the weak’, such as building organizations like guilds, mutual insurance associations or trade unions, but also actions like deserting, mutiny or going on strike.

Since the Middle Ages workers have defended their interests through guilds, mutual insurance associations, but also by deserting, mutiny and furthermore by employing various ‘weapons of the weak’. For the early modern period the IISH research group has published extensively on guilds and more recently has turned to various forms of ‘running away’ as ways to change prevailing labour relations in various parts of the world. For the modern period we created structured data in the Collaboratory on Labour Conflicts, which more recently has been extended to Africa. Thus adding to and interacting with the vast collections of social movements of the IISH (including guilds and unions). Furthermore, the research on forced labour and commodity frontiers (see dimension 1) includes the role of formal (unions, NGO’s) and informal social movements.

Matthias van Rossum and Dennie Oude Nijhuis are the leading researchers of a project on the history of the Dutch Trade Union Federation (FNV), which focusses on the period since 1980 and the impact of neo-liberalism on the increasing flexibilization of the labour market.

Finally Sjaak van der Velden has built impressive long-term databases on strikes and other labour conflicts, both for the Netherlands as well as world- wide (including Africa, Latin America and Asia). Filipa Ribeiro da Silva and Sjaak van de Velden work together on a database on strikes in Africa,

    Labour Union demonstration in 1900 - Photo: IISH Collections

    Key Publications

    • Rossum, M. van & J. Kamp (eds.), Desertion in the Early Modern World : a comparative history (London, Bloomsbury 2016).
    • Velden, S. van der, Broodnodig: 150 jaar geschiedenis van de Nederlandse vakbeweging (Amsterdam, Pallas Publications 2017).       
    • Matthias van Rossum, Titas Chakraborty & Marcus Rediker, Eds., Runaways: Workers, Mobility, and Global Capitalism, 1650-1850 (Berkeley,California University Press, 2019).
    • Pepijn Brandon, Niklas Frykman and Pernille Røge, Free and unfree Labor in Atlantic and Indian Ocean Port Cities (Forthcoming 2019 as Special Issue of the International Review of Social History).
    • Moira van Dijk, Matthias van Rossum, Loran van Diepen, Rosa Kösters en Bob Scholte, Precaire polder (Amsterdam, IISG 2018).