LabNet - Proceedings of the Founding Conference

Amsterdam, 18 February 1997

Present at the founding conference were: Logie Barrow, John Belchem, Catherine Bensadek, Lars Berggren, Duccio Bigazzi, Aad Blok, Michel Dreyfus, Bernd Florath, Rainer Noltenius, Karl Christian Fuehrer, Wis Geysen, Geert Van Goethem, Jose Gotovitch, Martin Grass, Mats Greiff, Bruno Groppo, John Halstead, Lex Heerma van Voss, Paul Henderson, Uffe Jakobsen, Hans Ulrich Jost, Fritz Keller, Ad Knotter, Sandrine Kott, Ursula Langkau-Alex, Jin-Mo Lee, Marco van Leeuwen, Marcel van der Linden, Wolfgang Maderthaner, Siegfried Mattl, Lars Olsson, Patrick Pasture, Talja Potters, Antoine Prost, Mike Savage, Michael Schneider, Peter Scholliers, Haia Shpayer-Makov, Angel Smith, Simonetta Soldani, Wouter Steenhaut, Brigitte Studer, Klaus Tenfelde, Paule Verbruggen, Martine Vermandere, David De Vries, Klaus Weinhauer, Serge Wolikow, Eileen Yeo

1. Structure and Activities of LabNet

General Structure
The meeting decided to found LabNet as an organisation of individuals. The primary aim of the network is exchanging information. The structure of LabNet will be as light as possible. In the future, when the exchange of electronic information has become even more common than today, one can imagine LabNet functioning exclusively through electronic mail. For the time being, it was decided to adopt the well-known structure of an association, including a paper newsletter and real general meetings.

Electronic Discussion Group
After some clarification of the working of a discussion list, the meeting established an electronic discussion list. Through the list members may exchange information, review books and discuss developments in the field through e-mail. The offer of the IISH to provide the technical support and the moderators was accepted.

Publication of a Newsletter
The meeting decided to publish regular newsletters on paper, which contain a selection of the information circulated through the electronic LabNet List. The frequency and size of this newsletter will depend on the amount of news circulating in the electronic network. In time, it may become unnecessary to publish on paper, when virtually all members are able to receive electronic mail. The IISH offered to produce and circulate the Newsletter free of charge, provided that the Institute may combine this newsletter with other newsletters it may wish to publish and provided that it is left to the Institute to decide whether to distribute the paper Newsletter among all members or only among those who do not subscribe to the List. This offer was accepted by the meeting.

Register of Current Research Interests
It was debated whether it is feasible to publish registers of current research interests of the members of the network and other occasional publications which can be of service to the members. Geert Van Goethem suggested to co-operate with the International Association of Labour History Institutions (IALHI) in this field. Antoine Prost and others stressed that LabNet should be a network of individuals and thought co-operation with IALHI therefore a less than obvious choice. It was decided to leave the choice to start this activity to the Executive Committee.

Participation in European Social Science History Conference
The meeting decided to participate in the bi-annual European Social Science History Conferences as the network on Labour of this conference. The first ESSHC was organised in 1996. The IISH will host the second conference in 1998, in Amsterdam. The conference will thereafter be organised by different scholarly institutions, and thus will travel over Europe. In principle all topics which are currently engaging scholarly debate can and should be discussed in sessions of this conference. Therefore, participation in this conference offers the LabNet members a place for scholarly debate and the network a pre-structured activity, which will cost little organisational preparation.

Organisation of LabNet Conferences
The meeting decided to organise special LabNet conferences. These will be more thematically focused than the Labour network at the ESSHC. There is no limit to these, and proposals are very welcome.
A proposal to organise a conference on migration, social mobility and the labour movement as competing living strategies for European workers, ca 1850-2000 was debated. Ad Knotter proposed to broaden the theme to The Life Course Perspective in Labour History. Simonetta Soldani and Lex Heerma van Voss argued against broadening the theme, to focus discussions as much as possible. Talja Potter and Antoine Prost argued for a relatively small conference. The proposal for the conference on the three living strategies was adopted.
As themes for future conferences were proposed:

  • Labour and the emergence of the European Union (Klaus Tenfelde)
  • Labour and new social movements (Klaus Tenfelde)
  • The use of labour history (Mats Greiff, Angel Smith)
  • Representations of labour (image and reality, film, literature) (Haia Shpayer-Makov)
  • Labour and democracy (Antoine Prost)

Klaus Tenfelde suggested choosing some post-1945 themes. The preparation of future conferences was left to the Executive Committee.

A possible task for LabNet, suggested by Klaus Tenfelde and Mike Newman, is the organisation of an international exchange of students and the development of an international curriculum in Labour History. It was decided that the Executive Committee should contact Tenfelde and Newman to see how this aim could be furthered.
Talja Potter reported on the presentation of new Ph-D projects to a group of professors at a special session during larger conferences as practised in the Social Sciences. She suggested that LabNet should introduce such sessions at future European Social Science History Conferences.

2. Adoption of the Constitution of LabNet

Marcel van der Linden corrected a typing error in article 2. Otherwise the Constitution was adopted unchanged, as reproduced with these proceedings. The date of General meetings was debated. There was some preference for meeting at the ESSHC, when there will be an interesting programme for most members, but in the end it was left to the Executive Committee whether to have special general meetings of LabNet, or to meet at the ESSHC, at other conferences.

3. Election of First Executive Committee

Elected were Geert Van Goethem, Lex Heerma van Voss, Marcel van der Linden, Lars Olsson, Simonetta Soldani, Brigitte Studer and Eileen Yeo. The Executive Committee will try to complete itself with a member from Eastern Europe. The Executive Committee was charged with drawing up a table of rotation for the Committee members.

4. Membership Fee

As it is not clear that LabNet will run into high costs, as the IISH is willing to pay the running costs of the secretariat for the time being and as it is both bothersome and unusual to ask a fee for the membership of an electronic network, it was decided not to ask a fee for the membership of LabNet. If there is a need for a membership fee in the future, the Constitution enables the Executive Committee and the General Meeting to determine a membership fee.

5. Other Business

Marcel van der Linden reported on the recently founded Labour History Association in India and on the plan of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History to set up, together with the Indian colleagues and other scholars in Asia, an Asia-Pacific Labour History Network, and on the discussion on H-Labor about the possible foundation of a North American Labour History Association. Thus the possibility arises of several interlocking networks, which might lead to comparative work on a global scale. Ad Knotter urged publication of the papers presented at the conference, a proposal which was seconded by several participants. Lex Heerma van Voss promised that the Executive would further publication. Haia Shpayer-Makov thanked the organisers of the Conference on behalf of all participants.