Australia. (Presentations 2: Labour History in Other Lands)

By Patmore, Greg | Labour/Le Travail, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Australia. (Presentations 2: Labour History in Other Lands)


Patmore, Greg, Labour/Le Travail


AUSTRALIAN LABOUR HISTORY remains a vigorous area of intellectual activity. Labour History, the journal of the Australian society, is celebrating its 40th anniversary and publishes a considerable number of articles. Other important sources of Australian labour history such as books, national conference proceedings, and branch publications highlight the links between academic labour historians and the broader community. One important contribution of Labour/Le Travail to Australian labour historiography was the Australian/Canadian comparative labour history project, which gave Australians the confidence to organise national conferences and develop the comparative dimension of labour history.

L'HISTOIRE DE LA MAIN-D'OEUVRE AUSTRALIEN reste un domain plein d'activites intellectuelles. Labour History, la journal de la societe australienne, fete son [40.sup.e] anniversaire et publie un nombre considerable d'articles. D'autres sources importantes de l'histoire de la main-d'oeuvre australienne telles que les livres, les deliberations des conferences nationales et d'autres publications soulignent les liens entre les historiens et l'ensemble de la communaute. Une contribution importante de Labour/La Travail apportee a l'historiographie de la main-d'oeuvre australienne a ete le projet de l'histoire comparee entre l'Australie et le Canada, qui a donna confiance aux Australiens d'organiser des conferences nationales et d'elaborer la dimension comparee de l'histoire de la main-d'oeuvre.

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WHILE WE ARE CELEBRATING the 50th issue of Labour/Le Travail (L/LT), 2002 is an important year for Australia's Labour History (LH) for two reasons. First, it is 40 years since the first number of the journal was produced at the Australian National University in January 1961. The journal continues many of the traditions established by its early pioneers. As Bob Gollan, the first president of the Society, later noted: "The Labour History Society was a kind of popular front, politically and intellectually."' The Society and journal reflect a cross-section of views from the Australian labour movement and draw on a range of academic disciplines including history, political science, economic history, and industrial relations. Second, from the November 2002 issue subscribers to the journal will have online access to LH as well as continuing to receive a hard copy. The journal will be part of a stable of historical journals that form the History Co-operative, which is administered by the University of Illinois Press. These journals include the American Historical Review and L/LT.

Australian labour history remains a vigorous area of intellectual endeavour. Institutional labour histories remain important and reflect the continued significance of the labour movement in Australian society. While trade-union density has fallen from 40.5 per cent in 1990 to 24.7 per cent in 2000, the Labor Party holds government in all the six states and two territories. There have been recent significant histories of the New South Wales Builders Labourers' Federation, with its pioneering "green bans" in support of environmental issues, and the Communist Party of Australia. Autobiographical and biographical studies of Labor Party and trade union leaders also remain an important part of book publication in Australian labour history. (2) The union movement continues its willingness to fund books on trade union histories. (3) These studies focus on union institutional development and politics and fill important gaps in our knowledge. Generally, institutional Australian labour historians, however, remain reluc tant to explore directly theoretical debates concerning labour institutions -- government, structure, and growth. The issue of organizing, which is a major priority for an Australian trade union movement at the moment, is marginal to charting the chronological development of the institution. Sometimes these problems reflect the constraints associated with writing official histories. …

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