This field of history draws together faculty and graduate students working on a wide variety of countries, geographic regions and chronological periods interested in the comparative history of labor and working classes. The question that guides our teaching and research—who does the work and under what economic and political terms?—remains important to the understanding of early industrialization, labor movements and organization, as well as the challenges of mobilizing labor in the recent era of globalization. Some recent topics of interest to our community of scholars include: slavery, the plantation household, international labor migration to the U.S., protest movements against the World Trade Organization, Black workers and civil rights unionism, and the recruitment and mobility of Indian ocean sailors. In addition to movements and institutions based on industrial labor, courses and research projects also explore agricultural work, unpaid and domestic labor, informal labor, and the professions. In all these spheres, the intersection with questions of race-ethnicity and gender are pursued through the “American” hemisphere and draw on in inter- and transnational contexts beyond our borders.
Our faculty are nationally active in a number of scholarly associations, conference groups and the editorial boards of journals. Duke recently hosted the Labor and Working Class History Association’s 2007 annual conference on "Working Class Activism in the South and the Nation: Contemporary Challenges in Historical Context."