Global Labour History

Global Labour History is not a theory but a field of attention. It concerns the history of all those people who through their work have built our modern world - not only wage labourers, but also chattel slaves, sharecroppers, housewives, the self-employed, and many other groups. It focuses on the labour relations of these people, as individuals but also as members of households, networks and other contexts. Global Labour History covers the last five centuries and, in principle, all continents. It compares developments in several parts of the world and attempts to reveal intercontinental connections and interactions.

The study of labour relations encompasses work that is both free and unfree, paid and unpaid. The study of labour relations concerns not only the individual worker but also his/her family. Gender relations play an important part within the family and in labour relations involving individual family members.

Global labour history primarily concerns the study of labour relations which have evolved along with the growth of the world market since the 14th century. Studies going back further in time are by no means excluded however.

As a central axis of this approach, we developed the idea of a Global Collaboratory on the History of Labour Relations, 1500-2000. First main goal of this project is to provide statistical insights into the global distribution of all types of labour relations (systematically including women's and child labour) in five historical cross-sections: 1500, 1650, 1800, 1900, and 2000. The second main goal will be the explanation of signaled shifts in labour relations world wide.

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