Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Lecture by Christian de Vito, 'Precarious Pasts'

4 April 2017
Posthumus Room, IISH

Precarious Pasts. Labour flexibility and labour precariousness as conceptual tools for the historical study of the interactions among labour relations

This essay seeks to highlight the potential of the concepts of labour flexibility and labour precariousness in developing the historical study of the interactions between (“free” and “unfree”) labour relations. At the same time, it highlights the impact of a global and long-term approach to labour flexibility and labour precariousness on the contemporary debate in this field. To this double aim, the paper defines labour flexibility as the relative advantage attached by employers and policy-makers to certain labour relations, based on the opportunity to recruit, locate and manage workforces in the place, time and task most conducive to the former’s own economic and political goals. In other words, labour flexibility expresses the employers’ and policy-makers’ quest to synchronise the availability of what they perceive as the most appropriate workforce, with their productive and political needs. In turn, labour precariousness is defined here as the workers’ own perception of their (lack of) control over their labour power, in relation to other workers, the labour market, and the social reproduction of their workforce.

Christian G. De Vito is Lecturer in History of International Relations (GIB) at Utrecht University, and Research Associate at the University of Leicester, as part of the team of the ERC "Carceral Archipelago" project. He graduated at the University of Florence (2001) and obtained his PhD at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa (2008). From 2011 and 2015 he was Honorary Fellow at the International Institute of Social History (IISH, Amsterdam).

Christian is co-coordinator of the working group "Free and Unfree Labour" of the European Labour History Network (ELHN), co-chair of the "Labour Network" of the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC), vice-president of the International Social History Association (ISHA), co-editor of the book series "Work in Global and Historical Perspective" at De Gruyter, and associate editor of the Revista Brasileira de Historia.

For the full list of publications, please see:

His teaching activities span the early modern and modern periods, multiple geographical contexts, and topics concerning historiography and the role of institutions in the origin and expansion of capitalism and in the production of social and spatial inequalities.

IISH Seminar
This lecture is part of the monthly IISH Seminar series. In principle, seminars take place every first Tuesday of the month. The seminar is open to the public, but with regard to accommodation and distribution of the paper in advance, we would like you to register with Jacqueline Rutte,  You will receive the paper after registration. After the lecture we serve drinks. We are looking forward to meeting you.