Business and Labour History Group

Led by Associate Professor Simon Mowatt, the group highlights the contribution of historical business and labour studies to critical scholarship, contemporary policy and teaching and learning, linking the international, Pacific and Auckland communities. The BLHG supports the development of business history broadly, and supported research student attendance to the 2016 World Congress of Business History (Bergen, Norway) and emerging scholars to attend the AAHANBS conferences.

The group focuses on the following main approaches to business and labour history:

  • Historical case studies of organisational development and innovation, including studies of technological and industrial change
  • Labour history concerning employment relations, working class culture, trade unions, non-union employee representation, political parties of labour and international comparative studies in all of these areas
  • Historical analysis of public policy development in employment relations, labour law, occupational health and safety, gender and diversity
  • Historical research in economics, employment relations, labour law, occupational health and safety, marketing, management, accountancy, finance and other business-based disciplines.
  • The development of historical perspectives of long term trends in business practices and ideology, including patterns of work and organisation and labour relations, as a contribution to understanding where we are today, and why.


Labour in Historical Context:
This collaborative project with other WRI groups explores the historical roots and implications of changing labour practices.
Key researchers: Fiona Hurd, David Williamson, Erling Rasmussen, Candice Harris, Katherine Ravenswood, Simon Mowatt, and Howard Cox (University of Worcester, UK)

Recent project outputs:

  • Fiona Hurd (forthcoming 2017) “Union Mutuality Beyond the ‘Mutual’: The collective development of a N.Z. Single Industry Town Hospital,” Labour History
  • David Williamson, Erling Rasmussen, Candice Harris & Katherine Ravenswood (2016) “Where is the historical employment relations research in hospitality and tourism?” abstracts of the 8th Annual Conference of AAHANZBS, 3–4 November 2016, Macquarie University, Sydney Australia

Monetary Thought and Central Banking in NZ
This project examines monetary thought and central banking in NZ before the advent of price level targeting, in collaboration with the University of Auckland.
Key researchers: Geoff Brooke, Alan Rogers (UoA) and Tony Endres (UoA)

Strategy and structure – technology and change
How do firms adapt to changes in technology and the environment?
Key researcher: Simon Mowatt


Revolutions from Grub Street book cover History of the magazine publishing industry

A comprehensive review of over 300 years of the business of magazine publishing in the UK. This project examined     how firms adapted to changing competitive conditions, examining the impacts of technological changes and its impacts on production processes, labour, firm strategy and structure, unions and patterns of employment. A major output was a widely reviewed monograph.
Key researchers: Simon Mowatt and Professor Howard Cox (University of Worcester, UK)
Revolutions from Grub Street can be purchased online through Oxford University Press. Read the reviews.

Key outputs:

  • Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt (2014, 2015 paperback) Revolutions from Grub Street - A History of Magazine Publishing in Britain, Oxford University Press.
  • Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt (2014). Monopoly, Power, and Politics in Fleet Street: The Controversial Birth of IPC Magazines 1958-1963. Business and Economic History, Volume 12, pp. 1-12, ISSN 1941-7349
  • Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt (2012). Vogue in Britain: Authenticity and the Creation of Competitive Advantage in the UK Magazine Industry. Business History, 54(1), pp. 67-87.

Livestream lecture: From Grub Street to the iPad – how the magazine industry survived constant change - History@AUT Winter public lecture series 07.09.2015

Green Business History:
This study examines the development of green business in New Zealand within the context of the ongoing wider Harvard Business School study led by Geoffrey Jones, and more specifically the development of the organic industry and the roots of the concept of “clean green” New Zealand. The project initially focused on interviews with founders and entrepreneurs, then archival research.
Key researchers: Simon Mowatt, Geoff Jones (Harvard Business School).

Key outputs:

  • Geoffrey Jones and Simon Mowatt (2016) “National image as a competitive disadvantage: the case of the New Zealand organic food industry”, Business History, 58(8):1262-1288
  • Geoffrey Jones (2017) Profits and Sustainability: A History of Green Entrepreneurship, OUP



Ann-Marie KennedyCarol Neill
David WilliamsonEdwina Pio
Erling RasmussenFelicity Lamm
Fiona HurdGeoffrey Brooke
Gina XuJulie Douglas
Kate NichollsKeri Mills
Lisa NguyenPaul Moon
Paul Woodfield Peter Gilderdale
Peter SkillingRob Allen
Simon Mowatt  (group leader)  

If you would like to become an actively involved research member please contact us.