Workshop: "For a comparative history of industrial risk regulation, 18th-19th c." - Maison Française d'Oxford, Oxford (UK) - 18 June 2012

Workshop, 18th June 2012, Oxford (Maison Française d’Oxford)

For a comparative history of industrial risks regulation, 18th – 19th c.

If comparison between national or regional contexts has been a driving force for the historiography of the « industrial revolution », and if environmental history has been immediately written on a global scale, the evolution of environmental and risk regulation is often studied according to the national, regional or local scales of the institutions producing the regulations. The aim of this workshop is to invite historians to consider how comparison could advance our understanding of the different ways of regulating risk and environment.

Indeed, having another country as a point of reference improves analytical acuity by denaturalising practices of government, proof or control which would otherwise remain self-evident. For instance, during the nineteenth century, the French government generally resorted to safety norms, academic expertise and administrative law. This strategy of securitization appears much more problematic when one takes into account the British way of regulating based on jurisprudence and local polices. Thus this comparison will help to identify the variety of the tools used for governing risks: administrative intervention, trials, safety norms, technical specifications, insurance etc. We will also be able to compare the contrasted effects of the different regulatory regimes on economic choices, technical forms, modes of production, workforce management, accident statistics, environmental damages, etc. Lastly, another kind of approach will study the international circulations that produce national regulations: exchanges between entrepreneurs, mechanics, experts, texts or norms.The objects of study can be extremely varied: (locations, industrial sectors, tools of regulation, legislations…) but they must be approached in a comparative perspective (between localities, regions, nations). In this way, shared papers on a common object studied in two different countries are more than welcome.
Workshop language will be English.
For more information, please contact:, or Thomas Le Roux (Maison Française d'Oxford / EHESS),
The research programme "History of industrial accidents and risks, France/Great Britain, end 17th - end 19th c." gathers a team of researchers in order to provide a better understanding of the rise of industrial risk during the first industrialization. It discusses its social implications at different stages: regulating policies (prevention, control, repression), security norms, geographic and urban dynamics, liabilites, refunding (insurances, allowances), first help and cure. Based at the Centre de Recherches Historiques (EHESS/CNRS), with the Groupe de Recherche en Histoire Environnementale (GRHEn), this research programme is funded by the City of Paris. Website: