Annual Report of BUIRA History of Industrial Relations Study Group



The BUIRA History of IR Study Group held four meetings this year, all at the University of Westminster and all well attended. This was the ninth year since its foundation.


Our first seminar, to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Trades Union Congress, focused on Walter Citrine and the Changing International Environment, 1920-1945 (17 October 2018). Jim Moher (former union national official and now historian) opened with a talk entitled The TUC Leadership and the Left after the General Strike, followed by Jonathan Davis (Senior Lecturer in History and Co-director of the Labour History Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin University) on Searching for Truth in Russia: Walter Citrine’s Soviet Visits in the Interwar Years.


Our second seminar was on The German Revolution 1918: Industrial Relations and Social Change (7 November 2018), to mark its 100th anniversary. Ralf Hoffrogge (postdoctoral researcher at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany) spoke on Shop Stewards and Revolution: From Workers´ Councils to Works Councils (1916-1920). He was followed by James Muldoon (Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Exeter) on Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Kautsky on the Prospects for a Socialist Democracy.

Our third seminar was entitled Women and Trade Unions (26 March 2019). Nicole Busby (Professor of Labour Law at the University of Strathclyde) and Rebecca Zahn (Senior Lecturer in Labour Law, also at Strathclyde) gave a joint presentation on A Feminist Challenge to the Trade Union Movement, after which Helen McCarthy (Lecturer in Modern British History at St John’s College, University of Cambridge) spoke on Working Mothers and Workplace Activism in Modern Britain.


Our final event of the year, which was jointly sponsored by BUIRA, Britain and Work and the Oral History Society, was our annual Oral Labour History Day, also held at the University of Westminster, on Saturday 11 May, from 10.30 to 16.45. Over thirty people attended throughout the day. This year our theme was Visions of the Workplace: Missing from the Record, which focused on the relationship between the visual and remembering, and asking questions about images of work and activism in film, photography and the theatre.


Following a welcome and introduction by Linda Clarke and Michael Gold, the keynote talk was given by Sarah Boston (documentary film maker and author) on How Seeing and Hearing People adds to our Multi-layered Understanding of History. Michael Gold chaired the round table, during which participants discussed their own interests and projects in oral history, and, after lunch, there were two sessions. In the first, Larry Herman (photographer) showed and discussed his film, Clydeside 1974- 1976 and Nick Jones (former industrial correspondent for the BBC) gave a presentation on The Changing Nature of Photo-ops and Vox Pops. After a break, in the second session Pam Schweitzer (founder of the Age Exchange Theatre Trust and the Reminiscence Centre) and Susan Croft (Director of Unfinished Histories, an initiative to record the oral history of Alternative Theatre in Britain) both addressed Applying Oral History: The Role of Theatre. Following discussion and questions, Joanna Bornat (Oral History Society) made some closing observations before closing the day.


We are beginning to plan for next academic year (2019/20), and would greatly welcome ideas for themes and speakers. Please do contact us!


Michael Gold

Linda Clarke

12 June 2019