The Trade Union International Dimension – a historical perspective


  • Paul Nowak (TUC)
  • Jim Moher (published historian and former national union officer )
  • Geoff Tiley ( TUC and author)
  • Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick (Birkbeck, University of London)
  • Simon Dubbins (UNITE the Union)

In the Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels urged ‘workers of the world to unite, as they had nothing to lose but their chains’. They didn’t do so then and haven’t since but have combined in trade unions in every part of the industrialised world with significant results in improving their workplace situation and their nations’ social welfare provision. Since then, trade unionists have also banded together globally to bring about more fundamental changes to the status of the working class and to call a halt to the periodic bloodletting of nations in wars. However, they have found that workers can be nationalistic as well, in support of their nations against other nations. Two world wars have resulted with massive carnage of populations in every nation. Today trade unions are less confident about appealing to fellow workers abroad, but in the face of multi-national corporations evading national governments’ rules and standards, they still aspire to build international agencies to regulate such abuses.

This seminar looks at the various efforts trade unions made in the twentieth century to unite globally and to enforce International Labour Organisation standards in all countries.


  • Opening remarks – Paul Nowak, General Secretary, TUC
  • From IFTU to WFTU  | Dr Jim Moher, published historian and former national union officer
  • A second internationalism of Labour | Geoff Tiley, Senior Economist TUC and author
  • The ITUC and the reunification of the international trade union movement | Dr Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business and Law, Birkbeck, and Vice president, Birkbeck UCU
  • The current global picture and ITUC | Simon Dubbins, Director of International & Research, UNITE the Union
  • Discussion

IHR Seminar Series: History & Policy Trade Union Forum


Historical engagement with policymakers

  • An unofficial official history on the use of history in three UK government departments (Christopher Knowles)
  • The History & Policy network and the past, present and future of historical engagement with policymakers (Philip Murphy)

Women and Employment

Speakers:  Sue Milner (University of Bath), Caroline Waters (OBE), Kay Carberry (CBE), Sarah Veale (CBE)

The UK is the twelfth wealthiest country in the world, measured per capita. But it also has high levels of wealth and income inequality and high gender wealth and earnings gaps. The UN’s human development index put the UK in eighteenth place in 2003, and the gender equality index put it in twenty seventh place. 

In several respects, the story of women’s employment in the UK since the 1990s is one of success: the employment gap and working time gap between men and women have both narrowed, as has the gender pay gap. Yet although the decades it would take for average women’s pay to reach men’s has decreased during that time, it remains dauntingly high.

Policy on women and employment was active (but contentious) during the New Labour years, and the unfinished agenda continued for some years subsequently, before stalling after 2016. During the years of active policy, however, the single policy output with the biggest impact on the gender pay gap (the National Minimum Wage) did not target women as a specific group of wage earners. In this seminar, which will launch a series of events we will focussing on different aspects of policy relating to women and employment, we will review the development of policy over the last three decades and ask why it has proved so difficult to make progress towards a more gender-equal society.

Keynote speaker: Professor Sue Milner, PoLIS, University of Bath

Discussants: Caroline Waters OBE, former Deputy Chair of the EHRC and Vice Chair of Carers UK; Kay Carberry CBE, former Assistant General Secretary at the TUC and Commissioner on the Women and Work Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Chair: Sarah Veale CBE, former Head of Equality and Employment Rights, TUC and former Commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission

IHR Seminar SeriesHistory & Policy Trade Union Forum


Writing the History of Secret Intelligence

Travels in the Missing Dimension: writing official histories of secret intelligence (Gill Bennett)

Politics and the History of British Intelligence in the Second World War (Declan O’Reilly)

IHR Seminar SeriesOfficial History: Past, Present and Future


Writing the History of Britain’s Atomic Energy and Weapons Programme

Whence cometh Official Histories? The case of the development of the British fission and fusion nuclear bombs in Australia (Sue Roff)

Margaret Gowing’s Britain and Atomic Energy, 1939-1945 (Matthew Jones)

IHR Seminar Series: Official History: Past, Present and Future


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