History of the British Industrial Relations Field Reconsidered: Getting from the Webbs to the New Employment Relations Paradigm


  • Bruce E. Kaufman is at Georgia State University; Griffith University and University of Hertsfordshire.


Sidney and Beatrice Webb are commonly cited as the founders of the British field of industrial relations. Are they, however, if the field is centred not on study of unions and collective bargaining but rather on the entire employment relationship? A ‘qualified yes’ answer is given; however, getting there involves major revision to the conventional historiography of the field. To illustrate, the article presents a traditional and revised family tree of British industrial relations. Numerous insights and implications follow.