Dr. Marjorie Levine-Clark, History Professor and Associate Dean, was recently commissioned by the publisher Routledge to compile a four-volume collection on unemployment in Britain between the years of 1824 and 1911, which will be published both digitally and in hardcover. Each thematic volume will include thirty to fifty primary sources. Levine-Clark will frame the collection around what she calls “the work imperative” – the expectation that able-bodied men, to fit into the dominant construction of masculinity and demonstrate their worthiness, had an obligation to work for pay. This gendered conception of work had significant implications for understandings and experiences of unemployment. Throughout the period these volumes address, being out of work was seen as a problem almost exclusively for men (even if women were mentioned in legislation or policies) because of their assumed primary roles as breadwinners and providers.
The collection explores power relations between unemployed people and those with the ability to provide assistance to them, and the continuing struggles over the meanings of work and unemployment. Volume One will examine the meaning of work. Volume Two will focus on attitudes towards and practices directed at unemployed people before the concept of unemployment existed. Volume Three will emphasize the “discovery” of unemployment as a structural economic problem. Volume Four will look at proposed solutions to unemployment. Levine-Clark received a large grant from the University of Colorado Denver Office of Research Services to support her research in London this June. Levine-Clark will be working in the British Library, the London School of Economics Library, the National Archives, and the University College London Senate House Library. While there, she will be focusing on finding primary sources to fit the sections in each volume.