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Labour Law History from a Global Perspective

20. August 2023

Organiser: Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory
Place: Hansaallee 41, Franfurt am Main, Germany
Time: 12 - 13 September 2023

Deadline for Registration: 5 September 2023


The history of labour law is a rather niche discipline in many countries, with only a few experts dealing with it. Depending on the historical genesis of the field, these are either jurists who have specialised in labour law or historians who come from a labour history background. What scholars have in common is that they often concentrate on national contexts and only rarely consider the relation to labour law of other nations (with the exception of European labour law or international regulation arising in connection with the International Labour Organization). That is, we do not find studies about the entangled history of these developments, literature with comparison as a methodological basis, or research questions that focus on similarities and differences of cases studies (unless the similarities and historical linkages are obvious, e.g. development in the context of colonial history).

This observation was already made by colleagues at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam in the early 2000s, bringing together experts on the topic in an exciting publication. This occurred at a time when Labour History in general was breaking new ground, reinventing itself, and trying to become more global, less Eurocentric. In the meantime, many initiatives, academic projects, and publications have developed out of this. Global Labour History is a recognised field today in which research on diverse topics is conducted. But what about Global Labour Law History? Have similar developments taken place here?

In the last years, the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory has developed some methodological proposals for doing Global Legal History, suggesting an analytical framework that helps to understand normative orders as the result of normative practices, observing them as Historical Regimes of Normativity. For example, in the research project ‘Non-state Law of the Economy,’ we are investigating norms and regulations in industrial relations in the German 19th and 20th centuries. Norms are not produced by the state but rather by a multifaceted field of actors and institutions in which the normative order is negotiated, codified, and called into question. This new approach seems suitable to take another look at the history of labour law and bring labour law historians into conversation with each other.

As a first step in this initiative, we planned a conference at which interdisciplinary, transversal, and transnational possibilities for networking and thematic focuses will be discussed. It will take place on 12-13 September 2023 at the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Theory. Online participation will be offered. Registration is possible via the e-mail wolf@lhlt.mpg.de until 5 September 2023.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

09:00-09:30 Arrival and Registration

09:30-10:00 Welcome and Thoughts on how to build up a Network (Johanna Wolf, MPILHLT)
Conceptual Perspectives on the History of Labour Law (Peter Collin, MPILHLT)

10:00-11:00 Keynote Speech: Workers’ Participation: Comparative Historical Perspectives from the Nineteenth Century to the End of the Cold War (Stefan Berger, Director of the Institute for Social Movements, Bochum)

Chair: Johanna Wolf


11:30-13:00 Panel I: Democracy at the Shop Floor

Workers Leaving the Factory: Discourses about the Democratization of Work since 1970 (Pedro Alexandre Teixeira, Centre Marc Bloch Berlin)

Labour conflicts and Political Regulation: The Case of Germany during the 20th Century (Manfred Wannöffel, Ruhr University Bochum)

Voices from the Shop Floor: Politics, Law, and Workplace Industrial Relations in Turkey, 1920s-1950s (Görkem Akgöz, re:work: IGK Work and Human Life Cycle in Global History, Berlin)

Chair: Jenny Jannsson


14:00-15:30 Panel II: Entanglements in Labour Law

Labour Conflicts and Labour “Law” in 19th Century Argentina (Gabriel Di Meglio, University of Buenos Aires)

Workers’ Mobilizations and Anti-Vagrancy Policies in Abolitionist Legislation: Brazil and the Portuguese Empire in Africa in a Perspective of the Global History of Labour (1870-1899) (Paulo Cruz Terra, Universidade Federal Fluminense)

International Influences on Labour Law in Brazil: Case Studies of Four Socialist Lawyers in the First Half of the Twentieth Century (Aldrin Castellucci, Universidade do Estado da Bahia)

Chair: Raquel R. Sirotti (tbc)


16:00-17:30 Panel III: Intertwining of Labour Regulation and (De-)colonization

Indentured Labour: Resistence, Violence and Colonial Law in German East Africa (Minu Haschemi Yekani, Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, Berlin)

Labour, Punishment and Governance: Labour Practices and Regulations in the Territories ruled by Chartered Companies in Mozambique (1891-1942) (Raquel R. Sirotti, MPILHLT)

Decasualisation in the Times of Decolonisation at the Port of Calcutta (Prerna Agarwal, London School of Economics)

Chair: Tim-Niklas Vesper


18:30-19:30 Roundtable I: Why writing Labour Law History
Joachim Rückert, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main
Cristina Vano, University of Naples Frederico II
Eric Tucker, York University Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto

Chair: Peter Collin

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

09:00-10:00 Roundtable 2: How writing Labour Law History from a comparative or global perspective?
Michael Rösser, University of Bamberg
Ravi Ahuja, Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Göttingen
Naoko Matsumoto, Sophia University, Tokyo / Research Fellow MPILHLT
Bridget Kenny, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Chair: Paulo Cruz Terra


10:30-12:00 Panel IV: Labour Courts in Comparison

Balancing Law and Labour: the Divergent Evolution of the Conseil de Prud’hommes in Belgium and France (Jasper van de Woestijne, Ghent University)

Labour Law and Politics in Mid-twentieth Century South India: A View from the ‘Informal’ Sector (Karuna Dietrich Wielenga, Azim Premji University, Sarjapura)

Brazil Labour Courts, Collective Workplace Disputes and their Normative Contexts (Fernando Teixeira da Silva, State University of Campina)

Chair: Cristina Vano


13:00-14:00 Panel V: Labour Law and Gender

“Those who were able to work”: Dominion, Politics and Culture in South Atlantic Labour Relations in the 18th century (Crislayne Gloss Marão Alfagalim, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro)

Sugar Cane Monoculture, and Gardens of Resistance under Plantationocene (Christine Rufino Dabat, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco)

Chair: Minu Haschemi Yekani


14:30-16:00 Panel VI: Labour Law and Revolution

Labour Protest and Democratic Opposition in Spain and Poland, 1960-1990 (Anna Delius, Federal Agency for Civic Education)

Democracy in Factory. Claims, Actors, Norms in the Italian Industrial Relations of the 1960s (Virginia Amorosi, Dipartimento di Giurisprudenza, Universita’ degli studi di Napoli)

Labour Law and Revolution. Dismissal Protection in Post-Revolutionary Portugal and Romania (Adrian Grama, Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies)

Chair: King Chi Chris Chan


16:30-17:30 Panel VII: Changes and Challenges in the World of Work

Workers’ Struggle and Political-economic Context: a Historical Review on Labour Law Reforms in China (King Chi Chris Chan, Royal Holloway, University of London)

How do Unions and Employers’ Organizations Use Notice of Industrial Action in Collective Bargaining? New Perspectives on Swedish Labour Market Conflicts (Jenny Jansson, Uppsala Universitet)

Chair: Karuna Dietrich Wielenga


18:00-19:00 Final Discussion


Johanna Wolf, wolf@lhlt.mpg.de

Source: Labour Law History from a Global Perspective. In: H-Soz-Kult, 16.08.2023, <www.hsozkult.de/event/id/event-138117>.