Labor History

Labor History for the 21st Century in a Global Perspective

Research Initiative, Department of History, CEU, 2012-2020

Between 2012 and 2020 the History Department at CEU hosted the research and networking initiative, ‘Labor History for the 21st Century in a Global Perspective’, originated and chaired by Marsha Siefert and Susan Zimmermann.

The initiative pursued a cluster of activities around the theme of labor history from the early modern period to the end of the 20th century, with a special emphasis on Central, Southeastern and Eastern Europe, on the Mediterranean and on comparative approaches beyond the region. The aim was threefold: to stimulate research and offer expertise in a field that had been greatly neglected in recent decades; to integrate the study of the history of labor in these regions into the transnational history of labor worldwide; and to contribute to and interact with the ongoing scholarly debate on the conceptual framings of trans-European and global labor history.

The Labor History Initiative has made a visible contribution to making labor history thrive at CEU and beyond today.


  • Susan Zimmermann received the ERC Advanced Grant “Women’s labour activism in Eastern Europe and transnationally, from the age of empires to the late 20th century” (Grant agreement No. 833691 – ZARAH, 2020v2026)
  • Our project “Laboring Lives: The Experience of Work in Eastern Europe” was awarded a grant from the CEU Humanities Initiative. Funding included support for: a one-year post-doctoral position at CEU’s History Department, awarded to Dr. Goran Musić (academic year 2017–2018); two lecture series in Winter 2016 and Winter 2017; work associated with the volume, Labor in State Socialist Europe after 1945: Contributions to a History of Work (see above).
  • We contributed to the organization of the conference “Workers beyond Socialist Glorification and Post-Socialist Disavowal: New Perspectives on Eastern European Labour History”, 24 –27 May 2018, University of Vienna, Austria. Several papers have been published in Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, vol. 17 (2020) 3, with an introduction by Rory Archer and Goran Musić.
  • Since 2015, courses and lecture series in labor history have been regularly taught in CEU’s History Department. This included, among others: “European Labor History in Global Context,” the very first course, co-taught in 2015 by Marsha and Susan, with an accompanying lecture series; the course taught in 2017: “Labor History: Global Trajectories, East European and Eurasian Dynamics” instructor Adrian Grama; the course taught in 2024: “Labor History in Global Perspective, 19th to 21st Centuries”, instructor Susan Zimmermann.
  • In preparation of the ERC Advanced Grant application (see above) a Workshop was held in Oberstaad/Germany from 8 to 9 September 2017.
  • We co-organized and hosted the third workshop of the Research Network on “Women, Work and Value in Europe, 1945–2015” (Principal investigator: Josie McLellan, University of Bristol), sponsored by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (UK) in Budapest, 6–8 March 2015. The workshop was entitled The Politics of Gender, Work and Value.
  • We organized, in co-operation with Gijs Kessler (International Institute for Social History, IISH, Amsterdam), several sessions, namely: one roundtable entitled “Bringing Eastern Europe into Global Labour History” and three panels – entitled “The Transformation of Labour under State Socialism”, “Labor Relations, Recruitment and Risk in Eastern Europe”, and “Rural Labour Strategies in Industrialising Eastern Europe: Migration and Alternatives” – for the European Social Science History Conference which took place in Vienna, 23–26 April 2014.
  • We assisted the formation of the Working Group “Labour and State Socialism”, involving PhD students from CEU, within the newly formed European Network of Labour History (ELHN). The ELHN, established in October 2013, brings together scholars and professionals from many European countries and beyond, who are involved with labour history archives, journals and research institutions, and come from a variety of universities. The first Conference of the ELHN was held in Turin, 14–16 December 2015.
  • In cooperation with the Historical Doctoral Program of the Institute of History, Eszterházy Károly College, Eger, and the ELHN Working Group “Labour and State Socialism”, we have organized a workshop, “Worlds of Labour. Reassessing Social Change in Twentieth Century Eastern Europe”, during which PhD students from the Eszterházy Károly College and from CEU presented and discussed their work in progress. The workshop was held at CEU on 9 April 2014.
  • We organized a workshop “Labor and State Socialism in East Central Europe” during which PhD students from different departments at CEU presented, and discussed with international scholars, their work in progress. The workshop was held at CEU on 2– 3 November 2012.

Contact: Marsha Siefert, Susan Zimmermann