Wednesday, 5 October 2016

CfP: The Labours of Asa

The Labours of Asa:
Work Inspired by the Contributions of Asa Briggs to Labour History

Call for Conference Papers:
Submission deadline: Thursday 13 April 2017
Conference Date: Saturday 6 May 2017
Conference Venue: University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
Sponsor:  The Society for the Study of Labour History

The organisers hope to obtain funding to support the attendance of postgraduate speakers.
Confirmed Keynote Speakers: John Belchem, Former Pro-Vice Chancellor and Professor of History, University of Liverpool, and Malcolm Chase, Professor of Social History, University of Leeds.

The organisers would be pleased to accept proposals for 30 minute presentations in English on themes suggested by the contributions of Asa Briggs to labour history.  We seek not to evaluate Asa Briggs’s work but to see contributions inspired by him.  Contributions concerned with any period and any place are welcome.  Contributions by Ph.D. students are particularly welcome.
Possible themes:
•    Synoptic views of Victorian Labour: An Age of Improvement?
•    VictorianPeople:  biographical and prosopographicalcontributions to labour history
•    Victorian Cities: Labour and the history of the city: Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Melbourne, London and elsewhere; Chartists, the later labour movement
•    Victorian Things: Labour and things; material culture, tangible labour
•    The ‘Language of Class’; the language of ‘mass’ and the ‘masses’
•    Labour and shopping, shopping and Labour: labour in the retail sector; shopping as domestic labour;‘workerism’, consumerism and labour
•    Labour and the BBC: labour and the media.

Asa Briggs, who died in 2016, was one of the foremost historians of his age.  He helped to create and to feed the growing interest in Victorian Britain during the 1950s and 1960s (The Age of Improvement; Victorian Cities, Victorian People, Victorian Things).  His History of the BBC was written between 1961 and 1995.  Less well known outside the field were his contributions to labour history.  His collection of Chartist Studies published in 1959 re-oriented the subject.  His collection with John Saville, Essays in Labour History, defined the specialism for many years.  His essay on ‘the language of class in early nineteenth-century England’ was path-breaking. His 1962 selection of William Morris’s writings and designs attempted a unified account of the designer, the poet, and the socialist which anticipated the cultural history of more recent years. He was a founder member of the Society for the Study of Labour History formed in 1960 and he was its first chair, relinquishing the role in 1967 to become its President.  As J.F.C. Harrison has remarked, he gave the field inspiration and he gave it respectability.

Asa Briggs had close associations with Leeds and West Yorkshire.  He was born in Keighley in 1921 and from 1955 to 1961 he was Professor of Modern History at the University of Leeds.  Leeds was one of the cities he chose to write about for Victorian Cities, a book that put the city in the company of Manchester, London and Melbourne.  He wrote a company history of Marks and Spencer, a company with its origins in Leeds and whose company archive now stands on the campus of Leeds University.  It is therefore particularly fitting that this Conference should be held in the University of Leeds.
Those interested may wish to consult Miles Taylor (ed.) The Age of Asa: Lord Briggs, Public Life and History in Britain since 1945 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Please send proposals to
Professor Keith Laybourn, the University of Huddersfield,, and Dr Quentin Outram, the University of Leeds,

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