The ITH Conference since 1964 have been regularly documented in form of conference proceedings (in exceptional cases as a double volume); furthermore, some other ITH publications have been published.
There are four different, but interlinked motives why we make these publications available online:
1. Similar to other institutions concerned with the history of labour and labour movements, the ITH was confronted with tendencies in knowledge production and related policies – especially during both decades before and after the turn of the millennium – that implied devaluating these research areas. However, reading the older and newer conference proceedings makes abundantly clear that this publication series compiles wide-ranging research on several topics, different world regions and international developments as well as key debates on the history of labour and labour movements in international languages (mainly in German). The ITH volumes thus provide a valuable treasure of knowledge and thought for today’s re-emerging labour history. The new Global Labour History can make use of this historical and interdisciplinary knowledge and can conceptually – in what critical turn soever – build on these contributions. The online publishing of the ITH conference proceedings from five decades helps avoiding that the (research) wheel is being re-invented over and over again due to a lack of knowledge on predecessors. The online publishing project counteracts the devaluation and oblivion of the research collected in the volumes and contributes to the advancement of research by making earlier research results easily accessible.
2. The publication series of the ITH conference proceedings constitutes a document for the history of historiography of labour and labour and social movements. The ITH is amongst the oldest international organisations that have aspired to conceive and write the history of labour and social movements across and beyond the scientific and political demarcations of the Cold War and post-Cold War era and, moreover, from an international and then global perspective. The conference proceedings record the history of these scientific efforts and policies of knowledge production in a unique way. If those volumes are published online, a dense chronology of original contributions to the history of historical sciences from half a century is made accessible. Interested persons can obtain a systematic overview on developments, trends, tendencies and turning points in the study of labour: When did researchers discuss which topics in which way? The ITH volumes can serve well all those individuals – students, activists, researchers – who wish to acquire knowledge about this history or even research the history of this historiography.
3. The ITH volumes are hardly available in libraries or even by means of the modern antiquarian book market, as they were for a long time published on the self-initiative of the ITH and their publication was primarily oriented towards the cooperation with the ITH member institutes respectively. In other words, there has hardly been a regular sales distribution oriented towards the book market or the international network of libraries. The volumes were only distributed irregularly via the bookselling market and were not systematically purchased by libraries. Therefore, the online publishing fills a major gap regarding the access to the ITH volumes.
4. The ITH has played and continues to play an important role in the development of the historiography on labour and labour and other social movements, and regarding the institutionalization and institutional support of the corresponding networks of researchers and activists. The annual ITH conferences and their documentation by means of the conference proceedings have always constituted the ITH’s central activity. Hence, the online publishing of the ITH volumes is to be understood as an important element regarding the documentation of the ITH’s past and present as an institution of significant relevance for the topic of labour and labour movements.
The ITH could win the International Institute for Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam, a world-wide leading institution regarding the development, maintenance and preservation of archive material from social movements, for the digital archiving of the ITH Publications. This cooperation guarantees the long-term digital archiving of the ITH Publications at one of the most important institutions of Labour History.
Susan Zimmermann, ITH President
We thank the International Institute for Social History (IISH) for the cooperation and the Institute for the History of Trade Unions and Chambers of Labour, Chamber of Labour of Vienna and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Berlin, for the financial support of the project’s technical implementation.