Labor history

From Academic Kids

Labor history refers to the political, social and legal struggle, working people, in their collective demands for fairer and more humane treatment from their employers. Labor history also refers to the activity of social reform movements, and to the struggle to abolish all forms of exploitation by revolutionary movements. Often, the cultural and philosophical culmination of previous labor struggles are codified as labor rights and labor law.

Articles related to
the Labor movement
Child labor
Labor in economics
Labor history
Labor law
Labor rights
Labor union
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Working-class people, by definition, have always been those in society who struggle more to survive, relative to those in who have wealth. The social divide between rich and poor began with civilization, and the attribution of wealth and ownership tends to be intertwined and interchangeable with social position. The social divide is analogous to the master and slave relationship, and it is this balance from which springs much of the current social order. The social need for administration by an authority by nature had to be balanced by the ruler's understanding of and attention to the needs of his subjects, or a natural social revolt would manifest. Much of this balance between ruler and ruled remained, from Mesopotamian kings to feudalist Lords in Europe, until the the development of wage labour.


The historiography of labor history

Labor historiography developed out of early 20th century attempts to document the history of the working people's movement. This was initially a story of revolutions, bloodshed and union leaders. However, some historians studied the actual status and conditions of individual workers. This lead the Historians Group of the Communist Party of Great Britain to examine labour history. E. P. Thompson, Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm developed a methodology which focused on highlighting the class experience and working lives of people in history.

Labor history remains centered on two fundamental interest: institutional histories of workers' organisations, and the "history from below" approach of the Historians Group.

Labor history

Labor history begins with the development of waged labour as a system of social life, at a time between the Black Plague and 1830 in the United Kingdom. This slow process drew more and more workers into a system of alienated labour.

Initial organisations

The initial organisations formed by working people were conspiratorial like the army of General Ned Ludd or luddites. Work related organisations were labelled illegal combinations. These early unions were very transient, and were suppressed more often than not by mass arrests and massacres.

Labor Actions, Historical Tactics

A common tactic was striking, an especially effective strand of which was the sit-down strike which was first used in 1933 and became an effective measure.

Politics and Philosophy

Throughout the early part of the twentieth century, the great question in the labor movement was, craft unionism or industrial unionism?


In Colorado, coal miners endured the Ludlow Massacre and the Columbine Mine Massacre.

Links to Labor Memorials

In the United States:

Labor Arts, Music, Culture

Labor Arts

Art and Music and the Labour Movement

Union Songs


The Class Struggle In Art and Music

Working and Union Songs


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