WG Labour Migration History

Conference on the topic ‘employing foreign workers’, West Germany, 1966


The ELHN Working Group Labour Migration History aims to build an interdisciplinary network of scholars studying labour migration from a historical perspective. Its objective is to advance knowledge exchange and cooperation through meetings, workshops and conference sessions and to serve as an open space to discuss research projects and potential collaborative publications. The WG will promote collaboration between researchers working in different countries and support projects on labour migration produced in different languages and in less privileged (non)institutional settings.


Although migration currently receives great attention in political and academic debates, it is often discussed as a humanitarian emergency, a social and a security problem, but very rarely as a labour (history) issue. Similarly, research sympathetic to the struggles of migrants tends to denounce the violation of human and civil rights experienced by migrants but very rarely refers to the breach of labour rights endured by migrants.

This working group seeks to generate scholarly debate about the interconnectedness of labour and migration history. It will reflect upon the importance of labour to analyse change in migration patterns and policies across time and space. It is interested in both empirical and theoretical analysis, and in various types of labour migration, perspectives, chronological and regional foci.

The working group provides opportunities for young researchers working in and outside academia to share information and seek collaboration and partners for their projects. Calls for papers, and news about forthcoming events and publications will be circulated through the group’s e-mail list.


A special issue of Labor History, 64(2023)4, on The Cold War of Labor Migrants: Opportunities, struggles and adaptations across the Iron Curtain and beyond seeks to bring forward the conversation between the history of the Cold War and migration studies. It is the result of a workshop convened by the ELHN Working Group Labour Migration History. It maps out the academic debate on international labor migration and it critically engages with its western-centric approach. It introduces seven contributions which, from different geographic and thematic perspectives, reassess the importance of non-Western experiences in shaping the entanglement between international labor migration and the Cold War.

Panels organised by the WG Labour Migration History at the ELHN Conference 2024 in Uppsala

  1. Tuesday 11 June 2024 14.00 - 15.30 A144-3 MIG1 A more-than-national perspective of guest worker programs
  2. Wednesday 12 June 2024 09.00 - 10.30 A144-5 MIG2 Guest-workers’ organisation, resistance and protest
  3. Wednesday 12 June 2024 11.00 - 12.30  A144-6 MIG3 Between past and future: memory and workers’ perspective
  4. Wednesday 12 June 2024 14.00 - 15.30 A144-7 MIG4 Politicised labour migration: Between policies and practices
  5. Wednesday 12 June 2024 16.00 - 17.30 A144-8 MIG5 Labour migration, national development and international narratives

Other publications

Bernard, S. (2022), Bringing labour back to migration history: a report on the activities of the working group labour migration history. Migration Letters, 19(4), pp. 537-546.


If you are interested in joining the Working Group on Labour Migration History, please write to the working group coordinators, providing the following information: name, institution (if any), email address, thematic focus/interest.

Group Coordinators

Rory Archer (Rory.Archer@uni-konstanz.de, rory.archer@uni-graz.at) is a social historian of the Balkans who is interested in labour history and migration during socialism. For further details on his research see https://yulabour.wordpress.com. Rory works as a lecturer in the history department at the University of Konstanz and as a researcher at the University of Graz (Centre for Southeast European Studies) where he leads a project on intra-Yugoslav Albanian labour migration.

Sara Bernard (sara.bernard@glasgow.ac.uk) is lecturer in societal transformations in South Eastern Europe at the University of Glasgow. Sara’s broad research interest is international labour migration since 1945 with a focus on the Balkans and the Mediterranean. She is also interested in the role of migrants and diaspora communities in the creation of nation states and national identities in Southern Europe.

Yannis G.S. Papadopoulos (ypameri@gmail.com, ipapadopoulos@unb.br) is visiting professor at the University of Brasília and fellow at the Institute for Mediterranean Studies-FORTH. His research focuses on migration and development in Southern Europe and South America during the Post-WWII period, transgenerational migration and migration policy.

[last updated 8 June 2024]