WG Factory History

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Men and women at work in Herstal, 1938


The ELHN Factory History Working Group consists of historians and anthropologists interested in factory-level analysis and aims to build a network of scholars from different disciplines studying factories with an historical perspective. The WG facilitates knowledge exchange by organizing meetings, workshops and conference sessions and acts as a hub to organize and design collective research projects and publications.


Since the 1980s, after the wave of de-industrialization and factory relocation that has characterized western economies, and with the historiographical interventions that changed the focus of labor history, the factory, along with the industrial worker, seems to have disappeared from historians’ agenda. The alleged breakdown of class as an unitary category and the dispersion of labor across other thematic arenas after the 1980s, and for a generation, caused both to have receded within historians’ agenda, relegated to the backwaters of scholarship. After the wave of de-industrialization and factory relocation that characterized western economies, manufacturing, which was the very business that once gave these economies mastery over the east and the south was history, we were told, and, accordingly, the factory as a workplace and factory work as a specific form of wage labour seemed to have lost their relevance. What ensued was a questionable historical narrative predicated on the shift from an ‘industrial economy’ to a ‘knowledge economy’.

The Factory History Working Group takes the cue from a number of recent studies of factories to foster discussion about a novel research agenda on the factory at the intersection of different disciplines and sub-disciplines, looking at a variety of agents, and cross the boundaries of national historiographies of industrialization and de-industrialization.


The working group aims to map the field by inviting scholars to share information on recent research on factories. Calls for papers, news about forthcoming events and publications are circulated through the group’s e-mail list. Some members of the group are working on a journal special theme on factory history to be published in 2019. Members of the group have organized sessions together in several conferences and the working group is actively organizing its own workshops.

See also the Working Group's conference report on the 3rd ELHN Conference in Amsterdam 2019 [PDF, 113 KB].


If you are interested in joining the Working Group on factory History, please write to the co-ordinators with the following information: Name, Institution (if any), e-mail address, thematic focus/interest.
Please use the attached PDF form.

Görkem Akgöz is a research fellow at the re:work-IGK Work and Human Life Cycle in Global History. She is working on the history of early Republican Turkey from a gender perspective. She is also the co-chair of the Labour Network of the European Social Science History Conference.

Nicola Pizzolato is a Senior Lecturer at Middlesex University. He is the author of Challenging Global Capitalism: Labor Migration, Radical Struggle and Urban Change in Detroit and Turin (Palgrave).

External links

Special issue of Labor History on factory history, October 2019

Workshop Across the 'Post‐Industrial' Divide: Rearticulating the Factory as an Object of Inquiry in History and Anthropology by re:work, Berlin, 3 May 2018

Workshop Past and present through the lens of the factory: An interdisciplinary conversation by re:work, Athens, 20-21 May 2019

[last updated 7 November 2019]