The ICHLC was established at NUI Galway in February 2013, arising from the Priority Research Area initiative of Moore Institute. Its aim is to ‘promote scholarship in and public engagement with the histories of labour and class generally, but with special emphasis on Ireland and the Irish abroad’. Already, the ICHLC has held three significant conferences as well as dozens of other events at NUI Galway, at the Galway Mechanics Institute, at the Town Hall Theatre and other venues, and has attracted scholars on labour and class to carry out research at the University. It has collaborated or is collaborating with several bodies, inter alia, the Irish Labour History Society, Edinburgh University’s School of History, and the Galway Council of Trade Unions. The ICHLC is currently running a series of public events under the umbrella of NUI Galway’s 1916: A Nation Rising/Éire á múscailt programme.
Planned events for 2016-17 include the following two conferences: on 7-8 October an interdisciplinary conference commemorating the bicentenary of ‘The year of no summer’, and on 11-12 November on Irish connections with the American-based ‘Wobblies’ (Industrial Workers of the World).
Labour history has traditionally been preoccupied with the ‘high’ politics of labour organization, with institutional studies of trade unions, labour parties, and associated topics such as strikes, policies and leadership. However, in recent decades its parameters have widened to include the study of the working class in the context of areas such as family life, institutional life, mentalities and values, culture, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. A transnational approach has also characterised the recent direction of the study of labour and class, with a particular focus on connections between the developed and underdeveloped worlds, and with an interrogation and re-conceptualisation of terms such as ‘labour’, ‘worker’, ‘strike’ and ‘class’. The proposed Centre, as reflected in its full title, aims to engage with and to advance this area of research. It will also undertake long-term work in archival retrieval and in the recording of oral testimony. With a view to enhancing the attractiveness of NUI Galway for doctoral researchers, it will be a priority of the Centre to encourage the deposit of labour-related records in the James Hardiman Library.
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