Summer 2019 - HIST 485 D100

Studies in History I (4)

Postwar European Labour

Class Number: 4365

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 6 – Aug 2, 2019: Mon, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



Special topics.


This course engages with the history of the European labour movement starting in 1945. In the wake of World War II and before the onset of the Cold War, workers looked to a new political horizon in a spirit of social reconstruction. Trade unions from Sweden to Belgium helped build the institutions of the postwar welfare state, characterized as a “compromise” between labour and capital. On this economic terrain, a new set of workplace and factory politics developed across Europe. These involved competing currents and diverse tactics, as well as a set of revolutionary events that increasingly pushed against the very limits of European social democracy. This period of economic growth and full employment also witnessed significant transformations in the labour process, from Fordist mass deskilling to new forms of automation and rationalization. These diverse factors generated a labour dynamic that escalated and intensified until a period of crisis and defeat in the 1980s, with the rise of neoliberal capitalism. In this course we will investigate the debates, events, and texts that mark European labour history from 1945 until the 1980s.


  • Introduce key themes, debates, and developments within the European labour movement in the postwar period;
  • Examine a number of specific case studies in countries across Europe, as well as European-wide movements and trends; 
  • Familiarize students with a diverse spectrum of postwar European texts;
  • Develop students’ oral and communication skills through in-class discussion and peer-to-peer exchange, as well as writing skills through a series of reading responses, film analysis, short essays, and an in-depth final essay.


  • Course participation 25%
  • Film analysis 25%
  • Final essay 50%



Robert Linhart, The Assembly Line (1981)

Dario Azzellini & Immanuel Ness, Ours to Master and to Own: Workers’ Control from the Commune to the Present (2011)

*Note that the Azzellini & Ness book is optional but suggested (required selections from this text will be available in a course package). A number of additional articles will also be required and made available through a course package and/or through Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

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