Upcoming Workshops and Symposia

  • The struggle for health and safety: Seafarers in Britain and Australia 1790-1900
    29th Aug 2014

    The BLHG will be holding its next talk on Friday 29 August 2014 in Merewether Seminar Room 298 from 12 noon to 1pm in the Merewether Building (HO4). Professor Michael Quinlan from the Australian School of Business, the University of New South Wales speak on "The struggle for health and safety: Seafarers in Britain and Australia 1790-1900."

    If you are interested in attending please contact Andre Pinto at wos.admin@sydney.edu.au by noon on Wednesday 27 August as refreshments will be served.


    For well over a century prior to 1900 a struggle had been waged to improve health and safety amongst merchant seafarers. Broadly speaking this struggle took three forms. First and best recorded there were a series of pushes to improve the laws protecting the health and safety of ships and seafarers - a struggle for which Samuel Plimsoll has become synonymous though his involvement in no way captures the entirety of the struggle. Second, from the 1870s emerging unions of seafarers sought to improve health and safety on ships including agitating for improved laws and both collective and individual actions to protect members (such as paying their court costs). Third and least known, long before the emergence of and consolidation of unions, seafarers had take a considerable degree of informal industrial action (including strikes and mass desertion) over health and safety on their ship. This action continued even after unions became established. There were over 1800 instances of collective action by seafarers in Australian waters alone between 1790 and 1900 and health and safety was by far the single biggest issue/cause of these actions. Further, the actions covered a wide array of health and safety issues (from unseaworthy ships and incompetent officers to poor food and unsanitary conditions) including pursuing some issues long before they became a source of regulatory/policy concern. Drawing on a range of sources (including parliamentary inquiries, medical literature and contemporary newspapers) this paper provides an account of all three types of struggle. It also emphasises that the precarious nature of seafarer's employment is critical to understanding the health and safety of seafarers - just as it is today.


    Michael Quinlan is professor of Industrial Relations in the School of Management and Director, Industrial Relations Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. He has published extensively on occupational health and safety (OHS), especially the effects of precarious work arrangements. Another study (with colleagues at the University of Sydney) examines the impact of workplace death on families. He has also written on the history of worker mobilisation and labour regulation in Australia and is currently involved in a project on collective action by convict workers with Dr Hamish Maxwell-Stewart (University of Tasmania). His most recent book is Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster: Learning from fatal incidents in mines and other high hazard workplaces (Federation Press, Sydney, 2014).

  • 'Perspectives in History' - Sixth Annual Conference of AAHANZBS
    3rd Nov 2014 The University of Sydney, Australia

    The Business and Labour History Group in the School of Business, the University of Sydney, Australia will be hosting the 6th Annual Conference of Association of Academic Historians in Australian and New Zealand Business Schools (AAHANZBS) on 3-4 November 2014.


    Eastern Avenue Seminar Room 310,
    The University of Sydney