Archive research update

The historical part of the project (based at the University of Portsmouth) is now well underway, and over the past three weeks Mike Esbester and Laura Mayne have been visiting archives and collecting information on relevant collections across the UK.

In particular we’re looking for sources which will show how social, political and economic factors have influenced perceptions of the legitimacy of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in Britain since 1960. In essence, have attitudes changed? If they have, how and why? And how do we go about investigating this?

One of the main points of interest for the project will be the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick. Collections held at Warwick include the records of the Trade Union Congress, papers of many trade unions (Including, for example, the Transport and General Workers Union) as well as records of labour organisations and employment welfare bodies like the Industrial Welfare Society.

The National Archives also hold a wealth of relevant information like the records of the Health and Safety Executive (1969-2006) and the papers of the Factory Inspectorate. We’re also particularly interested in practitioner organisations concerned with OHS in Britain, and the archives of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents promise a number of exciting sources.

Media sources are invaluable for examining popular opinion and discourses about health and safety and how this changes over time. The British Library Newspaper Archive will be useful for discussion of OHS in the media, whilst a number of press archives have been digitised, such as the Times Digital Archive and UK Press Online.

A number of TV, film and radio archives are also available online, and so far Laura’s been involved in identifying these and in sourcing programmes discussing OHS (such as current affairs programmes like Panorama). Other moving image/audiovisual archives like British Pathe Newsreels will also be useful, and material is being sourced from the British Film Institute.

Hopefully this brief post provides an idea of how the Portsmouth-based aspect of the project is developing, and we’ll aim to keep the blog updated with more information as research continues and we get further into the archival research.