International Institute of Social History

Work and labour relations deeply influence how we live. The International Institute of Social History (IISH) examines how these relations develop globally over time. To conduct this historical research and support other researchers, we collect archives and data from all over the world.

Gathering and analyzing data since 1500

Our research focuses on questions like:

  • Why has work been valued and compensated in very different ways over the past five centuries?
  • Why do people’s working conditions vary so widely from slavery to well-paid wage labour?
  • How can people individually or collectively influence these conditions?

Hoping to answer these questions, the IISH is working closely with researchers on other continents to gather and analyse data about social and economic changes all over the world since 1500. This concerns labour relations, individual life cycles, survival strategies, and collective actions, as well as time series of wages, prices, productivity, gender relations, life expectancies, and literacy. The work and labour relations perspective is essential to discover how inequality comes about and is perpetuated, within and between societies. Through this research, the Institute aims to contribute to current social discussions about social inequality, economic growth, the environment, globalization, migration, and democracy.

The e-component is important in both our collections and research. For our collections we are interested in digitization, preservation and dissemination of both non-digital materials (text/audio-visual) as well as digital born archives. Meta data of the collections is readily available via systems such as Our research benefits from collaboratory software, Linked Open Data in the CLARIAH project, statistical analysis in packages such as R, and GIS with a particular focus on border changes in Dutch municipalities and countries in the world.


Contact person for International Institute of Social History is Richard Zijdeman

Central Themes

  • GIS (historical border changes)
  • OCR
  • Open Linked Data
  • Statistical analysis (R)
  • Taxonomies (labour, occupations, products)
  • Text analysis

Relevant links