Historical concept of labour


This project examines the various ideas/concepts of labour as a socially and legally regulated concept since the beginning of stratified/hierarchical civilised states.


  • Professor Richard Mitchell

Project Background and Aims

Since the 1950s the sub-disciplinary field of law generally known as ‘labour law’ has largely been seen as an area of regulation relating to what are known as employment relationships (i.e. the relationship between those hiring labour and those offering labour in certain forms of contracts).

Overall, this line of investigation has tended to ignore the regulation of other forms of labour relationships and work. However, increasingly the confined nature of this ‘idea’ of labour law as a field of policy and academic inquiry has been brought into question.

Scholars are now pursuing many other types of ‘labour’ relationships, problems and issues as appropriate areas of inquiry in this legal sub-discipline.

The aim of the project is to learn about the extent of the continuity of the different ideas of ‘labour’ and how that labour was (and continues to be) perceived and regulated presently.


The current methodology utilised in the project is in the form of a search of secondary materials.