Annual Report of BUIRA History of IR Study Group



The BUIRA History of IR Study Group held three meetings this year, all held through Zoom and all exceptionally well attended.


Our use of Zoom throughout the pandemic has revealed both its strengths and weaknesses as a means for organising seminars. On the one hand, we’ve all missed the personal contact of a real live seminar, followed by a drink and nibbles and the chance to catch up with friends and colleagues. On the other hand, it has opened up our scope globally in terms of both the speakers we can attract and the audiences we can reach. The numbers attending these seminars has increased, with people logging on from Australia, Canada, Chile, South Africa and the USA, and from all over Europe.


Once the pandemic has receded, we’ll need a discussion about how to hold study group seminars in the future. Maybe the way forward will be to blend some face-to-face events with some online events, but that is a topic we’ll all have to address.




On 22 September 2020 we marked the 50th anniversary of the election of Salvador Allende as President of Chile with a seminar on Popular Unity: The Lessons of Chile – 50 Years On. Francisco Dominguez (Head of the Research Group on Latin America at Middlesex University) opened with a talk entitled Allende’s Chile: State and Revolution, followed by Fernando Duran-Palma (Senior Lecturer in the School of Organisation, Economy and Society, University of Westminster) and Miguel Urrutia (Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology of the University of Chile) who brought us up to date on recent developments in the country with Opening up the Great Avenues: Workers, Unions, and the Struggle against Neoliberalism in Chile (1979-2019). (26 people logged on.)


Our second seminar focussed on Working Mothers: 150 Years of Unpaid Care Work and Paid Employment (25 March 2021). Helen McCarthy (Reader in Modern and Contemporary British History, University of Cambridge) spoke on Gender, Maternalism and Intellectual Biography: Beatrice Webb and Women’s Work, c. 1880s – 1919. Eileen Boris (Hull Professor of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara) then introduced an international dimension with a presentation entitled: ‘Indispensable to All Working Women and to Mothers in the Home’: Global Labour Standards and the Care Work Economy, 1919-2021. (45 people logged on.)


Our third seminar was Has a standard contract of employment ever existed? An historical overview from the UK (17 June 2021). Simon Deakin (A Professor of Law at Cambridge University and Director of the Centre for Business Research) introduced the session with a talk on the genealogy of the contract of employment, following which Noel Whiteside (Professor at the University of Warwick Institute for Employment Research) spoke on Back to the Future? Forms of employment in historical perspective, in which she demonstrated how casual working practices and flexible hours characterised substantial sections of the UK economy prior to the Second World War. (45 people logged on.)


For the second year running we were unable to organise our Oral Labour History Day, an annual event that we have successfully shared with Britain at Work and the Oral Labour History Society since 2010. To work effectively, this event has to bring participants face-to-face for a day of presentations, round tables, discussions, film shows and informal interaction. We postponed it again because we felt it just wouldn’t have been much fun on Zoom. Hopefully we can resume next year, 2022.


Meanwhile, if you would like to suggest ideas or topics for future IR History seminars, please e-mail Michael Gold ( or Linda Clarke ( We’d love to hear from you!



Michael Gold


Linda Clarke


21 June 2021