Global Economic Developments and its Consequences for Labour

In this project cluster the IISH studies several aspects of globalization through four themes:

  • Economic Developments
  • Commodity Frontiers and Commodity Chains
  • The Spread of Forced Labour and Slavery
  • Precarization.
Percentage of the population that is enslaved (2014) | Source: Rick Noack in The Washington Post 18-11-2013. Data source: Walk Free Global Slavery Index.

Theme: Economic developments

The fundamental work by Bas van Leeuwen, Jan Lucassen, Jan Luiten van Zanden, Peer Vries and Joost Jonker on the processes accompanying economic change such as the spread of market institutions, wage labour and commercialization (taking deep monetization as a global indicator of these developments), and on key indicators of wellbeing at a global scale,  offers new standards, time series and typologies which are crucial for global comparisons.

For labour relations, the Global Collaboratory on the History of Labour Relations offers data, typologies and a taxonomy of labour relations, to enable global comparisons.

Finally, Pepijn Brandon examines the long-term impact of war on economies, financial systems, states and (forced) labor.

    key publications, projects and datasets

    Key publications:

    • Spek, R.J. van der, and B. van Leeuwen (eds.), Money, currency and crisis: In search of trust, 2000 BC to AD 2000 (Oxon, Routledge, 2018).
    • Pepijn Brandon, Marjolein C. 't Hart and Rafael Torres Sánchez (eds), ‘The Economic Impact of Eighteenth-Century Warfare and State Financing’, special issue Financial History Review, Vol. 25, No. 1 (2018).
    • Zanden, J.L. van, et al., How was life? Global well-being since 1820 (Paris and Amsterdam, 2015).
    • Spek, R.J. van der, B. van Leeuwen & J.L. van Zanden (eds.), A history of market performance. From Ancient Babylonia to the Modern World (Oxon, Routledge, 2014).
    • Lucassen, J. (2018). ‘Labour and deep monetization in Eurasia, 1000 to 1900’, in: Karin Hofmeester and Pim de Zwart (eds.), Colonialism, institutional change, and shifts in global labour relations. (Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press) 327-360.

     Theme: Commodity frontiers and commodity chains

    Ulbe Bosma has been on the forefront of the international network “Commodity Frontiers Initiative”. This collaborative (including Sven Beckert from Harvard and Eric Vanhaute from Ghent) is developing a new analytical framework with (forced) labour as a prism through which a new understanding will be obtained about the global nexus between commodity extraction, labour and environmental degradation. Furthermore, this research initiative includes the counter narratives of national and transnational social movements aiming at the empowerment of rural workers in their struggle against social and ecological injustice.

    The second commodity-project is ‘Luxury and Labour’ by Karin Hofmeester which analyzes the effects of the globalization of a durable luxury commodity on labour relations worldwide. Central question of this research project will be how the globalization of the diamond trade and finishing industry - spurred by increasing consumer demand - affected labour relations in this sector worldwide. Thereby we will look at all segments of the production process 'from the mine to the finger'

      key publications, projects and datasets

      Key publications:

      • Bosma, U., The sugar plantation in India and Indonesiah. Industrial Production 1770-2010 (Cambridge University Press 2013; 2017).
      • Bosma, U. , 'The Global Detour of Cane Sugar: From Plantation Island to Sugarlandia,' in Karin Hofmeester and Pim de Zwart, Colonialism, Institutional Change, and Shifts in Global Labour Relations (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018),
      • Bosma, U. Revisiting the Periphery: How Island Southeast Asia Became a Mass Exporter of Labor. Under contract and under review with Columbia University Press.
      • Hofmeester, K., ‘Economic institutions and shifting labour relations in the Indian, Brazilian, and South African diamond mines’, in: K. Hofmeester and P. de Zwart (eds.), Colonialism, institutional change, and shifts in global labour relations. (Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press) 67-107.
      • Hofmeester, K. and B. Grewe (eds), Luxury in Global Perspective: Objects and Practices, 1600 - 2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016)
      • Hofmeester K., 'Shifting trajectories of diamond processing: from India to Europe and back, from the fifteenth century to the twentieth',  Journal of Global History, volume 8, no 1 (2013), pp 25-49

      Theme: The spread of forced labour and slavery

      Global comparisons of unfree (slave) labour has expanded considerably with the research projects of Matthias van Rossum, Ulbe Bosma, Marcel van der Linden and Pepijn Brandon. Especially Van Rossum’s work on forced labour in Asia in the early modern period, showing a much greater spread and variance of slave labour than commonly assumed, and their function for economic developments, has led to a new paradigm that decenters the Atlantic slavery historiography and highlights transcontinental connections in the nexus of labour, trade and commodities.

      Key publications, projects and datasets

      Key publications:

      • Rossum, M. van & K. Fatah-Black, ‘Beyond profitability. The Dutch Transatlantic slave trade and its economic impact’, Slavery and Abolition 36 (2015) 1, 63-83.
      • Rossum, M. van & J. Kamp, Desertion in the Early Modern World: A Comparative History (Bloomsbury: London 2016).
      • Linden, M. van der & M. Rodríguez Garciá (eds.), On Coerced Labor Work and Compulsion after Chattel Slavery (Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2016).

      Key projects:

      Theme: Precarization

      Marcel van der Linden has kept on pushing the theoretical frontier of global labour history, e.g. by rethinking the contribution of Marxian ideas for future developments of capitalism, precarity and labour relations and collective reactions against this development.

      Matthias van Rossum and his team have developed this theme in a joint project with the Dutch Trade Union Federation (FNV) and published an agenda-setting report on the future of unions in an era of flexibilization.

      Key publications, projects and datasets

      Key publications:

      • Linden, M. van der & K. H. Roth (eds.), Beyond Marx. Theorising the Global Labour Relations of the Twenty-First Century (Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2013).
      • Breman, J. & M. van der Linden, Breman, ‘Informalizing the economy: the return of the social question at a global level’, Development and Change 45 (5): 920-940.
      • Moira van Dijk, Matthias van Rossum, Loran van Diepen, Rosa Kösters en Bob Scholte, Precaire polder ((Amsterdam 2018).

      Key project:

      Finished projects