Canadian Labour History Bibliography, 1976-2009

Compiled by Michael Lonardo
Queen Elizabeth II Library
Memorial University of Newfoundland

Search the Bibliography



In the mid-1970s the advocates of a "new working-class history" helped spark an explosion in the number of publications devoted to the history of Canadian workers. This was accompanied in the late 1970s by the appearance of publications designed to alert practitioners to the best of this growing literature, including bibliographical essays and an annual bibliography of Canadian labour studies that appeared in the Bulletin of the Committee on Canadian Labour History/Bulletin du Comité sur l'histoire ouvrière canadienne. In 1980 this activity culminated in the publication of Douglas Vaisey's The Labour Companion: A Bibliography of Canadian Labour History Based on Materials Printed from 1950 to 1975. Ironically, soon after its publication, it became dated as a result of the increase in the number of publications and theses devoted to the study of the Canadian working class in the years after 1975, the cut-off date for Vaisey's bibliography. In fact, in the introduction Vaisey recognized that a supplement or new edition would soon be needed.

Since the publication of Vaisey's work, the annual bibliography (carried on by Vaisey and Marcel Leduc until 1984 and then assumed by me and Robert Sweeny) published in Labour/Le Travail continued to serve as a current awareness tool. Then, several years ago a cumulative version of the English-language entries in the annual bibliographies, including subject descriptors and a sophisticated search engine, was mounted on the Queen Elizabeth II Library web site. During a sabbatical year in 2002/2003 entries for the period 1976-1984 were also added to the database. The result was a searchable bibliography of citations to works published after 1975 that served both as an update to Vaisey's work and a current bibliography of recently published material. In 2010, I decided to cease the task of adding newly-published titles to the bibliography. As a result, titles are only included if they were published between 1976 and 2009.


Relevant citations have been defined as those that deal with the history of the working class within the borders of present-day Canada (the migration or sojourning of Canadian workers to toil in other countries is also included). This history is not limited to the workplace, but also includes family and community life, broadly defined -- for example, school, home, clubs and political life (although histories of the political manifestations of the working class -- CCF/NDP, CPC, etc. -- are excluded unless they relate directly to the working class). Labour includes not only industrial workers but also petty commodity producers such as artisans, fishers, farmers and waged professionals like teachers and health professionals, many of whom are experiencing the proletarianization of their professions. (However, we must not ignore the difference between "work" and "working class". In other words, not everybody who works is a member of the working class -- for example, lawyers, business executives, high ranking government workers). In addition, items dealing with unpaid work done in the home and on the farm, usually by women, are also included.

In the 1980s the "new working-class history" itself was challenged by feminist historians and historians of ethnic groups. The analysis of both forced labour historians to reconceptualize their work, recognizing, for example, that the working class was not exclusively male, native-born and white. Gender and ethnic differences came to be recognized as intrinsic to the formation of the working class. One of the results has been that the boundaries of labour and working-class history are no longer distinct, but rather merge and cross over into a broader social history. While this can make decisions about the inclusion of titles in a bibliography of working-class history more problematic, I have tried to err on the side of inclusion.

Naturally, the items to be included will be historical in nature, with an emphasis on the period 1800-1975; the earlier date represents the beginning of the transitional period to industrialization, while 1975 may be seen as the end of the post-1960s wave of industrial militancy, including much of the important organizing of public-sector workers. Titles devoted to the period after 1975 will also be included, although more selectively; specifically, titles devoted to current industrial relations, labour law and the reportage of current and recent labour disputes, will not be included unless they contain some measure of historical background.


Recognizing the limitations that must be set on a project that relies primarily on a single individual, the bibliography has been limited to English-language monographs, pamphlets, journal articles, articles from edited collections (each item in an edited collection is entered separately) and graduate theses. Items are included if they were published between 1976 and 2009.

Acknowledging the importance of making working-class history accessible to a wider audience, including the informed non-specialist, an attempt has been made to include both scholarly and popular material, although juvenile titles and items of less that two pages have been excluded. Translations of works originally published in languages other than English have been included, as have all variant editions of published monographs. On the other hand, reprints of articles and reprints of monographs, or parts of monographs published in readers and textbooks have not been included unless they are reprinted with some revision, or additional material such as a significant new introduction. While a few government documents have been included, a lack of resources, combined with a recognition that not many relevant documents would have been identified, made it impossible to conduct a systematic search of this category of material. It is hoped that the bibliography will serve as a guide to material that is, for the most part, available to researchers in major academic libraries.


As noted above, the bibliography is fully searchable, including author (names of individuals who have published under variants have been standardized so that one search retrieves all relevant citations), title, subject descriptors, as well as a keyword search option that will search all fields simultaneously. Of course, the most time-consuming aspect of the preparation of the bibliography was the task of assigning subject descriptors to each item. (All items in the bibliography were examined before inclusion). Before this could be done, however, it was necessary to create a thesaurus of index terms. This was done by drawing on terms from existing thesauri such as that prepared by the Central Library and Documentation Bureau of the International Labour Office, in addition to Library of Congress subject headings, as well as terms that were drawn from the literature itself.

In compiling the thesaurus I have tried to be mindful of the nature of the bibliography. For example, while I have attempted to incorporate existing descriptors from sources like the Library of Congress subject headings, there were clearly times when the terms were too general for a bibliography on a narrow topic -- "working class" would not be a particularly helpful subject descriptor except for the most general of works. On the other hand there were times when Library of Congress subject headings were too specific, given the fact that the bibliography is relatively small (about 4000 titles). For example, I have decided not to use both the terms "communism" and "communists", but instead have made the decision that in enough cases an item that deals with communists also deals with communism, and that given the size of the bibliography, not so many items are likely to be retrieved as to warrant the distinction. Similarly, the term "coal mining" will retrieve items on coal miners as well. In some cases the existing thesauri did not provide the descriptor adequate to describe the subject, and in that case I have adopted the term as it is used in the literature. For example, neither LC nor the ILO thesaurus uses the term "labour process", while practitioners use it repeatedly. The availability of the thesaurus will allow researchers to note which terms are used and to choose the ones closest to the topic they are searching.


A number of individuals in the Queen Elizabeth II Library have helped in the creation of the bibliography. Richard H. Ellis, the former University Librarian, approved a number of leaves dedicated to the project. In the early years Carmelita Power input several hundred titles into machine readable form; Bernie Conran created search strategies that were used for searching online sources; Mary Hayes conducted those searches over the years; Lorraine Jackson helped identify potential items for inclusion; and most recently, without the computer expertise and perseverance of Su Cleyle and Slavko Manojlovich, this incarnation of the bibliography would not have been possible. I thank them all, while of course absolving them of all responsibility for the errors.

Michael Lonardo

Copyright November 2010