Workshop, 15th May 2012, Paris (EHESS)
The 1898 Law on Workplace Accidents and the Pricing of Bodies in Europe
In recent years, scholarly studies on risks and occupational health diseases have reactivated a field of research that emerged in France between 1975 and 1985. At a moment when environmental health issues are attracting more and more historical interest, it seems important to return to the problems related to workspaces by including them in this more recent problematic. The aim of this workshop, which is devoted to the French 1898 Law on Accidents at Work in France, is to enlarge our understanding of the history of risk to a broader range of issues situated at the interface of law, economics, medicine and technology. Twenty-five years after François Ewald’s book on accident insurance and ideas of risk in France, L’Etat providence, why should the history of the 1898 Law be revisited?
New readings are possible: the 1898 law established the principle of lump-sum compensation for victims of workplace accidents but equally removed the right of workers and their families to pursue further claims for damages in a court of law. How can we make cultural and political sense of this normalization of risk and what essentially amounted to the pricing of bodies? Insurance companies have particularly benefited from this law: what was their role in its implementation? And, what about that of trade unions? What happened to more traditional forms of solidarity amongst families, workers, or employer and employees? Moreover, it would be interesting to examine the split between what were perceived as occupational hazards and industrial risks: was the legal distinction between the two that emerged in the late nineteenth century really so conclusive? Can we combine a history of liability and compensation schemes with a history of prevention and safety measures, or more broadly of production? Finally, an expansion to other geographic areas can throw up questions and provide new answers. Indeed, we cannot understand the 1898 law without placing it back within its European context. In the same period, in most European countries (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Russia, Italy) as well as in the United States, accidents came to be seen in a new light which resulted in a legislation and a redefinition of compensation systems. Papers including European comparisons are therefore welcome.
Workshop languages will be English and French. Proposals of young researchers are welcome. The research programme will reimburse travel and accommodation costs. Proposals (title, abstract 350 words maximum, short CV) should be sent before February 15th 2012 to Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Thomas Le Roux, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. An answer will be given on February 25th.
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. Il discusses its social implications at different stages: regulating policies (prevention, control, repression), security norms, geographic and urban dynamics, liabilities, 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 :
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