3-4 November 2016 at The Marx Memorial Library, 37A Clerkenwell Green, London.
On the 90th and 30th anniversaries of the General Strike and the Wapping Dispute, this two-day conference will explore the role of printers and print as agents and vehicles of protest.
Professor Andrew Pettegree (University of St Andrews)
author of The invention of news and reformation and the culture of persuasion.
‘Printers Unite!’ is a phrase that invokes the historic solidarities and struggles of printers and their eventual amalgamation into a single union, Unite, which in 2009 bequeathed the hosts of this two-day conference a collection of papers on the subject.
If this rendering of ‘Printers Unite’ places a strong emphasis on labour history, then it is also necessary to emphasise our commitment to the solidarities and struggles of early modern and pre-industrial printers. These printers also possessed strong solidarities through the chapel system and their struggles were often more dangerous and violent than those of their successors. The phrase ‘Printers Unite’, then, is also intended as a call to researchers of printing history to unite over historical periods, making it possible to establish broader patterns and trends over time.
The conference organisers are especially interested in instances when printers have utilised their craft and labour power to protest against or in favour of economic, political, religious and social changes. These instances will no doubt differ in their historical content and themes, but a focus on print as a medium — and printers as workers — will allow us to draw out common styles and techniques, as well as practices and struggles. Such an approach should also allow us to develop valuable connections between labour history, printing history and cultural and social history. The subject of print and protest can be explored from a number of angles, including through the printed product, individual printers, printing chapels and trade unions and print networks.
Abstracts of no longer than 250 words are invited for papers that address the relationship between print and protest in relation to the following themes in particular:
• Print and polemic / print and propaganda;
• Protest and the printing trade, including the Stationer’s Company and print unions;
• Censorship / copyright / the struggle for a free press / control of print and ‘underground’ printing;
• Protest and objects of print, including texts, images and cartoons;
• Print, protest and uses of (or resistance to) technology;
• Women, print and protest;
• Ethnic minorities, print and protest;
• Local, national and international networks of print and protest.
The conference will also include an exhibition on the Wapping Dispute and reminiscences from former printers.
Abstracts of no longer than 250 words should be submitted along with a brief biography to
by 25 March, 2016.
Invitees will be allocated 20 minutes in which to present their papers.
Professor Caroline Archer (BCU), Dr Matthew Day (Newman University), Dr Malcolm Dick (University of Birmingham), Ms Ann Field (Marx Memorial Library) and Dr Christopher Hill (BCU)
The conference is supported by The Centre for Printing History & Culture, Birmingham City University, Marx Memorial Library, Newman University, and the University of Birmingham.