Forthcoming events


CFP: Industrial Labour & Literary Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century

Organised by the Piston, Pen & Press research project and the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas, Tampere.

Date: Friday June 7th, 2019

Venue: Finnish Labour Museum Werstas, Tampere.

How did the industrial working-class engage with literary culture in the long nineteenth century? How far was their engagement determined by their industrial occupation? What can the literary productions of industrial working-class writers tell us about the processes of identity formation? How can the industrial working-class’s engagement with literary culture be used by industrial heritage and labour museums both to deepen our understanding of industrial/working-class history and make that knowledge available to the wider public?

These are some of the key questions which underpin the AHRC-funded Piston, Pen & Press project ( This project focuses on industrial workers in Scotland and Northern England, but the research team would like to situate their work within a much broader European context. Hence this conference which, we hope, will draw together academics and museum professional from across Europe to discuss these questions.

The conference organisers welcome proposals for 20 minute papers on any of the following topics:

  • The ways in which European industrial workers represented themselves, their labour and/or the labour process in literary forms such as; poetry, song, fiction, autobiography, memoir.
  • The role played by literary culture in producing working-class identities.
  • The ways in which industrial workers gained access to literary culture through reading groups, reading rooms, mutual improvement societies, literary societies, libraries etc (irrespective of whether these were created by or for the workers).
  • The role played by the industrial working-class engagement with literary culture in industrial heritage/labour museums in the C21st.

We are particularly interested in receiving proposals for papers which focus on any of the following occupational groups – textile workers, miners, railway workers.

We are able to offer a limited number of fully funded places to workshop participants, covering registration and accommodation and with a small bursary to assist with travel. Priority will be given to postgraduate students, early career scholars not in full time employment, or heritage professionals without access to conference funding. The conference organisers hope to publish some of the conference proceedings in either an edited collection or a special journal issue.

The conference proceedings will be in English.

Please submit your proposals (500 words maximum) and a summary cv (1 page) to: by 30 January 2019


Previous events


On 4-5 October, we co-hosted an international symposium with the Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, Texas, celebrating 175 years since ‘The Cry of the Children’ appeared in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. At our end, the Strathclyde Humanities and Social Sciences IT team helped to record Mike Sanders and Jennifer Reid’s ‘100 in 100’ performance, to be shown as part of the opening event at the ABL – a 15 minute extract is available on the conference website. We also held a lively workshop on ‘Recovering Working-Class Writing for the Digital Age’, featuring Francesca Benatti from the Reading Experience Database, Helen Rogers from the Archive of Working-Class Writing, and Simon Rennie discussing the Poetry of the Cotton Famine project. Short videos of Francesca, Helen and Simon discussing their projects are available here. This was followed by a digital annotation workshop on ‘The Cry of the Children’ using COVE. Our Strathclyde group proved to have so much to say about EBB’s poem that after the first 30 minutes of our workshop, we hadn’t finished with the first stanza. We’ll be working with an international team of scholars to reduce our many annotations and comments to a more manageable format and finalize a digital edition of the poem. We closed the day by participating remotely in an ABL session, and were able to listen and respond to Marjorie Stone and Florence Boos.

As part of our contribution to ‘Rhyme and Reform’, Mike and I supplied some early project findings, including poems by millworkers and miners, to a digital exhibition. We’re delighted to have worked with the ABL on this and with their production of a great resource for students and scholars of EBB, and those with broader interests in working-class Victorian literature. As we continue our archival research, we’re looking out for more working-class writers referencing EBB’s poem or discussing women and child labourers from their own perspectives.