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Salford Business School

Professor Ralph Darlington

Professor of Employment Relations and Director of Postgraduate Research


Ralph became a lecturer in Employment Studies at the University of Salford in 1991 and was promoted to senior lecturer in 2000 and Professor of Employment Relations in 2008.

He is Director of Postgraduate Research in the College of Business and Law, with responsibility for some 150 PhD students. His teaching interests are in the areas of work, employment, industrial relations and trade unionism. He teaches Employee Relations on a third-year undergraduate module and Employment Relations and Law on a postgraduate module. He has given guest lectures at a number of universities in Britain, as well as in France, Spain, Finland and Germany.

Ralph has authored, co-authored and edited six books, including The Dynamics of Workplace Unionism (1994), The Political Trajectory of J.T. Murphy (1998), Glorious Summer (2001), Syndicalism and the Transition to Communism: An International Comparative Analysis (2008), What's the Point of Industrial Relations?: In Defence of Critical Social Science (2009), and Radical Unionism (2013).

He has also had 13 book chapters and 29 journal articles published in both British and international journals, and presented research papers at conferences in 12 different countries around the world.

Ralph is an executive committee member of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association, executive board member of the International Association on Strikes and Social Conflicts, and member of the British Sociological Association. He is an editorial board member of the journal Work, Employment and Society and an editorial advisory board member of Employee Relations: The International Journal. Ralph also acts as a referee for the British Journal of Industrial Relations, Industrial Relations Journal, Work, Employment and Society, Human Resource Management Journal, Capital and Class, Employee Relations, Labor Studies Journal, International Review of Social History, Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, Journal of Contemporary History, Economic History Review, and Contemporary British History.

He was guest editor of a special issue of Socialist History (2010) and joint editor of special issues of Capital and Class (2012) and Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2012). He was also guest editor of a special issue of Employee Relations examining the changing nature of employment relations over the last 50 years which was published in 2015.

For the last 22 years Ralph has been secretary of the Manchester Industrial Relations Society (,  the primary forum for academic and practitioner debates in the field of industrial relations in the north-west of England. He organised a 50th anniversary one-day national conference of the Society in November 2014.

In addition to acting in an advisory capacity for a number of trade unions, his research has been featured in national and local newspapers and on radio and television.


Employment Relations, third year undergraduate

Employment Relations and Law, postgraduate

Research Interests

Ralph's research is concerned with the dynamics of trade union organisation, activity and consciousness in Britain and internationally within both contemporary and historical settings.

Contemporary studies have been conduced into different sectors of manufacturing industry, Royal Mail, Fire Service, Manchester Airport, London Underground, the railways, and McDonald’s fast food restaurants, amongst others. Historical studies have been conducted into various aspects of the international labour movement, including the British First World War Shop Stewards Movement, the labour militancy of the early 1970s, and the international revolutionary syndicalist movement during the first quarter of the 20th century. 

Both sets of research have been concerned with the changing nature of trade unionism, the relationship between union members and full-time union officers, and the interplay between workplace militancy, union leadership and socialist politics.

Ralph’s research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and British Academy.

Ralph has recently co-authored a research report on ‘The Conservative Government’s Strike Ballot Threshold Proposals: The Challenge for the Trade Unions’ which has been republished in abbreviated and pamphlet form by the Institute for Employment Rights.

PhD Supervision

I am currently supervising doctoral students on the following topics:

Human Resource Development policy formulation, implementation and regulation; outsourcing, contract labour and the trade union response; and the role of social media in recruitment.

I would be interested in supervising future doctoral students in:

I would be interested in supervising future doctoral students in the general area of work, employment relations and society, particularly trade unionism and strike activity.

Qualifications and Memberships

  • BA (Hons) Social Studies First Class, Liverpool Polytechnic, 1987
  • MA Labour Studies, Sociology of Labour, University of Warwick, 1988
  • PhD Industrial Relations, University of Warwick, 1991
  • Member of British Industrial Relations Association and British Sociological Association



Revolutionary Unionism: Syndicalism in Europe & America in the Early 20th century. Chaekgalpi. 2015, ISBN: 978-89-7966-113-2.

Radical Unionism, Haymarket Books, 2013.

(ed.) What's the Point of Industrial Relations? In Defence of Critical Social Science, British Universities Industrial Relations Association, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-9547961-1-2

Syndicalism and the Transition to Communism: An International and Comparative Analysis, Ashgate 2008. ISBN: 978-0-7546-3617-5

Glorious Summer: Class Struggle in Britain, 1972 (with D. Lyddon), Bookmarks, 2001. ISBN: 1-898876-68-1

Suffragette and Socialist, M. Murphy (edited and introductory chapter), Institute for Social Research, University of Salford, 1998. ISBN: 0-904483-25-8.

The Political Trajectory of J.T. Murphy, Liverpool University Press, 1998. pp. 1-267. ISBN: 0-85323-733-6.

The Dynamics of Workplace Unionism, Mansell, 1994. pp. 1-297, ISBN: 0-7201-2168-2.

Book Chapters

‘The Contemporary Relevance of Syndicalism’, Preface to R. Darlington, Revolutionary Unionism: Syndicalism in Europe & America in the Early 20th century, Chaekgalpi, 2015. ISBN: 978-89-7966-113-2.

‘Striking Unionism with a Political Cutting Edge’, in H. Connolly, L. Kretsos and C. Phelan (eds.) Radical Unions in Europe and the Future of Collective Interest Representation, Peter Lang, 2014.

‘The Role of Trade Unions in Building Resistance: Theoretical, Historical and Comparative Perspectives’: pp.136-193, in M. Atzeni (ed.) Workers and Labour in a Globalised Capitalism: Contemporary Themes and Theoretical Issues, Palgrave, 2013.

‘The Rank-and-File/Bureaucracy Analysis of Intra-Union Relations: Some Implications for Social Movement Organisation’: pp.187-207, in L. Cox, A. Nilsen, J. Krinsky, and C. Barker (eds.), Marxism and Social Movements, Brill, 2013. 

‘Vague de grève, croissance syndicale, bureaucratie et militants de base au Royaume-Uni (1889-1920)’, in J-C. Vinel (ed.) La gréve en exi?. Syndicalisme et démocratie aux États-Unis et en Europe de I’Ouest (xix-xxi siècles), Les editions l’Arbre Bleu, 2014.

‘Syndicalism’, in G. Claeys (ed.) Encyclopedia of Modern Political Thought, CQ Press, Sage, 2013.

‘Who Are We? The Role of Research into People Management’ (with John Dobson), in (eds.) W. Wereda and S. Starnawska, Competitive and Cooperative Business Strategies for Efficient Outcomes in Different Markets, Siedice University of Natural Sciences and Humanities, 2011, pp. 79-95.

‘Organising, Militancy and Revitalisation: The Case of the RMT’, in (ed.) G. Gall, Union Revitalisation in Advanced Economies: Assessing the Contribution of ‘Union Organising’ (Palgrave Macmillan), 2009, pp. 83-106.

‘Introduction: Some of Challenges Facing the Academic Study of Industrial Relations’, in R. Darlington (ed.) What the Point of Industrial Relations? In Defence of Critical Social Science, British Universities Industrial Relations Association, 2009, pp. 1-16.

‘J.T. Murphy’ in Dictionary of Labour Biography: Volume 12, (ed.) K. Gildart and D. Howell, Palgrave, 2005, pp. 193-199.

‘J.T. Murphy’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press (also available on CD-ROM), 2004.

‘Industrial and Political Strategy in the 1972 British Strike Wave’ (with D. Lyddon), in K. Flett and D. Renton (eds.), New Approaches to Socialist History, New Clarion Press, 2003, ISBN: 1-873797-41-9, pp. 117-132. 

‘Founding of the Red International of Labour Unions (RILU) in Moscow’, St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide, Gale Group, 2003, pp. 209-211.

‘Turning Point for Poland’, In the Heat of the Struggle (with E. Barker), (ed.) C. Harman, Bookmarks, 1993, pp. 190-191, ISBN: 0-906224-94-2.

Journal Articles

'British Labour Movement Solidarity in the 1913-14 Dublin Lockout', Labour History, vol. 57 no. 4, 2016.

‘The Changing Face of Employment Relations Over the Last 50 Years’, Employee Relations, vol. 37, no. 6. 2015.

‘The Rank and File and the Trade Union Bureaucracy’, International Socialism, no. 142, 2014, pp. 57-82.

‘An Alterfactual Methodological Approach to Labor History: The Case of the British Miners’ Strike 1984-5’, Labor History, vol. 55, no. 2, 2014.

‘Strike Waves, Union Growth, Bureaucracy and the Rank-and-File/Bureaucracy Interplay: Britain 1889-1890,. 1910-1913 and 1919-1920’, Labor History, vol. 55, no. 1, 2014.

‘Partisan, Scholarly and Active: For an Organic Public Sociology of Work: pp.285-243, and the Case of Critical Labour Studies’, Work, Employment and Society (with Paul Brook), 2013, vol. 27, no. 2.

‘Objective But Not Detached: Partisanship in Industrial Relations Research': pp.285-297, (with John Dobson), Capital and Class 2013.

‘Re-evaluating Syndicalist Opposition to the First World War’: pp.517-539, Labor History, vol. 53, no. 4, 2012.

Syndicalism and Strikes, Leadership and Influence: Britain, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, and the United States’, International Labor and Working Class History, no. 83, 2013, pp. 37-53.

Editorial (with Dave Lyddon and Paul Smith), Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, no. 33, 2012.

‘Introduction’ (with Gregor Gall), Capital and Class, vol. 36, no.1, 2012, pp. 1-3 .

‘A Reappraisal of the Rank-and-File/Bureaucracy Debate’ (with Martin Upchurch), Capital and Class, vol. 36, no.1, 2012. pp. 73 - 91.

'Radical Political Unionism in France and Britain: A Comparative Study of SUD-Rail and the RMT’ (with Heather Connolly), European Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 18, no. 3, 2012.

‘The Interplay of Structure and Agency Dynamics in Strike Activity’, Employee Relations, vol. 34, no. 5, 2012, pp.. 518-533.

‘The State of Workplace Union Reps Organisation in Britain Today’, Capital and Class, vol. 34, no 1, 2010, pp. 126-135.

‘Editorial: Syndicalism and Radical Unionism’, Socialist History, no. 37, 2010, pp.1-11.

‘Leadership and Union Militancy: The Case of the RMT’, Capital and Class, vol. 33, no. 3, 2009, pp. 3-32.

‘Syndicalism and the Influence of Anarchism in France, Italy and Spain’, Anarchist Studies, vol. 17, no. 2, 2009, pp. 29-54.

‘British Syndicalism and Trade Union Officialdom’, Historical Studies in Industrial Relations,no. 25/26, 2008, pp. 103-140.

‘The Agitator “Theory” of Strikes Re-evaluated’, Labor History, vol. 47, no. 4, 2006, pp. 485-509.

‘In Defence of the Alterfactual in Historical Analysis’, Socialist History, no. 29, 2006, pp. 76-88.

‘Revolutionary Syndicalist Opposition to the First World War: An International Comparative Reassessment’, Revu Belge De Philologie Et D’Histoire, vol. 12, no. 4, 2006, pp. 983-1003.

‘There is No Alternative: Exploring the Options in the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike’, Capital and Class, no. 87, 2005, pp. 71-95.

‘Workplace Union Militancy on Merseyside from the 1960s Onwards: Extent, Nature, Causes and Decline’, Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, no. 19, 2005, pp. 123-152.

‘The Manchester Industrial Relations Society: An Historical Overview’, Human Resources and Employment Review, vol. 2, no. 4, 2004, pp. 229-234.

‘Shop Stewards’ Leadership, Left-Wing Activism and Collective Workplace Union Organisation’, Capital and Class, vol. 26, no. 1, 2002, pp. 95-126.

‘Union Militancy and Left-Wing Leadership on London Underground’, Industrial Relations Journal, vol. 32, no. 1, 2001, pp. 2-21.

‘Workplace Union Resilience in the Merseyside Fire Brigade’, Industrial Relations Journal, vol. 29, no. 1, March 1998, 58-73.

‘Restructuring and Workplace Unionism at Manchester Airport’, British Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 33, no. 1, March 1995, pp. 93-115.

‘Shop Stewards’ Organisation in Ford Halewood: From Beynon to Today’, Industrial Relations Journal, vol. 25, no. 3, July 1994, pp. 136-149.

‘The Challenge to Workplace Unionism in the Royal Mail’, Employee Relations, vol. 15, no. 5, December 1993, pp. 3-25.

‘The Restructuring of Workplace Unionism in the Royal Mail’, Unionism on the Brink? The Future of the Movement, Management Research News, vol. 16, no. 5/6, 1993, pp 52-54.