WG Labour and Empire

Amsab FO.13724
ICFTU delegation in 1956, preparing the Pan-African Congress of Douala


The global turn has helped to revive the study of labour in imperial, colonial and post-colonial contexts. The Labour and Empire Working Group, co-ordinated by Yann Béliard, Gareth Curless and Lorenzo Costaguta, aims to provide a forum for historians to share new and emerging labour history research relating to Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Middle East, as well as the European imperial metropoles. A core goal of the group is to go beyond Eurocentric perspectives and promote innovative, fresh research that adopt a global analytical approach. For this reason, contributions from scholars from across the world and from early career researchers are particularly welcome.


The group regularly issues call for papers, both as part of the biennal ELHN conferences and for separate group-only events. Since its formation in 2013, the Working Group has organised seven conferences, two in Paris (2013 and 2018), one in Turin (2015), one in Nanterre (2017), one in Amsterdam (2019), one in Vienna (2021) and one in Bristol (2023). Contributions to these conferences have reflected the renewed vibrancy of labour history. Topics have included the often blurred boundary between free and unfree labour, labour (im)mobility, labour and colonial violence, gender and the labour question, maritime labour, transnational activism, and the relationship between class, labour and empire.

During the year, the group organises a seminar series, in which members of the group present their work in progress (check the seminar program via the link at the bottom of the page).

The activities of the group have led to several publications, including the volume Workers of the Empire Unite: Radical and Popular Challenges to British Imperialism, edited by Yann Béliard and Neville Kirk (Liverpool University Press, 2021) and a special issue on trade unions in the Global South edited by Gareth Curless.


The co-ordinators of the group welcome enquiries from prospective contributors and members, as well as suggestions for future events and collaborations. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, with a view to being notified about upcoming conferences, workshops and CfPs, please contact the main email address of the working group (labourempire.elhn@gmail.com) or one of the organisers: Yann Béliard (yann.beliard@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr), Gareth Curless (g.m.curless@exeter.ac.uk) and Lorenzo Costaguta (lorenzo.costaguta@bristol.ac.uk).

External links

[last updated 13 January 2023]