Labour History News
First meeting of the Italian Society for Labour History
On 1 May 2012, the Italian Society for Labour History (Società Italiana per la Storia del Lavoro – SISLav) organized its first meeting at the 'Sala Santi' of the 'Camera del lavoro' in Reggio Emilia
Participation of proponents and supporters of the 'Manifesto' (see http://storialavoro.wordpress.com/english/for-an-italian-scholarly-society-of-labour-history/ for a English version) has been large, enthusiastic, and promising. First, the reasons behind the ‘Manifesto’ were recalled at the meeting, underlining the urgent need to establish a collaborative network between groups and/or individual researchers and scholars whose interests concern labour history and, generally, the study of the ‘work’. Secondly, the participants to the meeting started a broader discussion over important topics concerning the Society which include:
- cultural reasons and aims
- organizational design
- relationships with other International Associations of Labour History as well as with territorial Italian organizations (as Research Centers, Chambers of Labour, Historical Archives)
- fund raising
- future plans and activities
With respect to the first point, the aims of the Society, as stated in the ‘Manifesto’, the participants agreed with the renewed presence of various, but disaggregated research around the subject of ‘labour’. The need to create a place for communication and the exchange of information, with the aim to enlarge the scope of the chronological and thematic research on labour history have been underlined. The importance to apply an interdisciplinary perspective was emphasized, especially starting a constant dialogue with social scientists and economists, in order, among others, to limit the dominance of current ‘paradigms’ and to avoid hegemonic claims. Moreover, inclusion of the ‘pre-industrial period’ as well as the use of new approaches to the ‘history of labour movements’ were conceived as imperative. Regarding the internal structure of the Society, the arrangement of the ‘Statute’ is the first, and most important step. The meeting agreed that the design will be organized to allow the good functioning of the Society and to counter-balance the various territorial, scientific and operational segmentations. The relationships with the international organizations and scholars have been considered as one of the main important goals, as well as the link with other territorial organizations. In general, the participants stressed about the need to disseminate as much as possible the ‘Manifesto’ through seminars and workshops.
In order to sustain the exchange of information among those who are interested in labour history a provisional web-platform has been realized. Although a specific website will be launched as soon as possible, a blog is currently available on http://storialavoro.wordpress.com/. The blog includes information on the future of the Society and the contacts to communicate with the organization and signal calls for papers, conferences, events, books, and articles. Active participation is open to all who are interested. Finally, the participants agreed that during the next months the activities will include:
a. The constitution of a steering committee that will be devoted to the statutory, organizational, territorial as well as fund-raising matters
b. the organization of a first regular meeting between September and October during which the ‘Statute’ will be presented and voted on by the participants (who also will pay the member-fees)
c. the planning and design of a conference to be held in the 2013 to discuss the state of the art of the labour history in Italy and abroad.
This first meeting was followed by a working seminar held in Rome on 25 May, at the Library of Senate of the Italian Republic. The seminar, with the title ‘La Storia come Storia del Lavoro’ (‘History as Labour History’) aimed to discuss the main issues at the root of the SISLav project, briefly illustrated by Luca Baldissara, introducing the morning session. The contributions addressed the state of the art of Italian Labour studies, (Stefano Musso, who set out a framework for the beginning of the 21st century ); the development of the global Labour history and its potential for the Italian research (Christian G. De Vito); the history of the “working-class movement” concept in the Italian tradition (Michele Nani); the changing perpectives on the distant basis of the Industrial revolution, and the need to reset its periodization (Giovanni Favero), the relationship between labour history, working-class movement, trades unions history, and politics in 20th century Italy (Jorge Torre Santos). On the whole, both the contributions and the debate focused on the widespread necessity to strenghten the links among the different approaches to Labour History (Pietro Causarano), and to extend backwards the cronological boundaries of what is considered “labour”, in order not only to include modern periods but also to reconsider the legacy of medieval corporative tradition (Angela Groppi). Suggestions have been made to take into account the connections with other disciplinary fields, such as economic history (Simone Selva).
The afternoon session was meant to explore some of the 'open' questions in current researches related to labour history in a broad perspective. The key role of labour has been examined in relation to the building of the corporative State during the Fascist regime and the corporatist practices before and after its establishment (Laura Cerasi), and with regard to the making of civil and constitutional laws during the 20th century (Irene Stolzi). The working-class movement and the trade unions was instrumental in the establishment of the Italian Republic after WWII, and its contribution has still to be examined (Lorenzo Bertucelli). This also applies for the controversial and thwarted transition from the Fascist regime to democracy after 1945 (Michela Ponzani). Finally, the relationships between migration and labour has been analysed, with a focus on the birth of a modern social security system in the 20th century Italy (Stefano Gallo).
The day before the seminar, in Rome, some members of the steering committee gathered to discuss about the Statute, the first plenary meeting for the official foundation of the Society, the website, and other formal activities. In particular, the Steering Meeting urged that the Statute will underline the main aims of the society, stressing the importance to disseminate the labour history studies in every possible form, inside and outside the academic environment. The meeting for the formal foundation of the Society has been scheduled to be held in Milan in the second half of September or the first half of October, at the venue of the Camera del Lavoro.