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date: 26 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter assesses major trends in the historiography on work and migration in the twentieth century. It argues that four methodologies dominate this literature: what can be called the ‘primitivist’ interpretation, followed by the modernist, Marxist, social history approaches. Analysis of representative works and major themes from each of these genres reveals that capitalism, colonialism, and local practice figure centrally in all, although the explanatory weight each is granted varies considerably. In its consideration of the history and historiography of work and migration, the chapter points to exemplary new studies and promising future directions. It also discusses scholarly blind spots, in particular the tendency of historians to treat the history of work as the history of wage labour, which has created a bias in the literature towards male employees who work in industry, mines, and railways.

Keywords: capitalism, colonialism, urbanization, wage labour, non-regulated production.

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