Prof Ralph Darlington

Salford Business School

Photo of Prof Ralph Darlington


Ralph is an Emeritus Professor in Employment Relations. Appointed to a lecturing position in at the University of Salford in 1991, he was promoted to senior lecturer in 2000 and Professor of Employment Relations in 2008, before being awarded an Emeritus Professorship in 2018.
Ralph has authored, co-authored and edited seven books, including The Dynamics of Workplace Unionism (1994), The Political Trajectory of J.T. Murphy (1998), Molly Murphy: Suffragette and Socialist (1998), Glorious Summer: Class Struggle in Britain, 1972 (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 Labour Revolt in Britain (2023), His 2008 book has also been republished as Radical Unionism (2013) and Revolutionary Unionism: Syndicalism in Europe and America in the early 20th century (Korean edition: 2015).
Ralph has also had over 40 articles published in both British and international journals, 16 book chapters, three entries in biographical dictionaries (including the 60-volume Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and 12-volume Dictionary of Labour Biography), and numerous other published reports, articles in practitioner journals, blogs postings and book reviews. He has presented research papers at over 90 conference papers in 16 different countries around the world, including international conferences organised by bodies such as the International Labour and Employment Relations Association, International Association of Strikes and Social Conflicts, European Social Science History Conference, Industrial Relations in Europe Conference, North American Labour History Association, Australian Labour History Society and Canadian Industrial Relations Association.
His research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, British Academy, Lipman-Miliband Trust, Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust, and Sainsbury’s Trust.
Ralph’s research in both the areas of contemporary industrial relations and labour history have been consistently cited over recent years within key textbooks, research monographs, and journal articles, as well as other professional and practitioner publications, and his research has had an external impact in informing public policy debate. For example, a (co-authored) report on The Conservative Government’s Trade Union Bill and Its Challenge to the Trade Unions (2015) was republished in abbreviated and pamphlet form by the Institute for Employment Rights, cited in a House of Commons Library Briefing Paper and Parliamentary Report, and in the Trades Union Congress’s (TUC) submission to the government’s consultation exercise on the Bill, as well as its report on the Bill for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Committee of Experts. It was also utilised for campaigning material by one of the largest trade unions in Britain, Unite.
Ralph was an editorial board member of Work, Employment and Society for six years (2011-16) and guest editor of special issues of Socialist History (37: 2010) and Employee Relations (37: 6: 2015), as well as joint editor of a special issue of Capital and Class (35: 3: 2012). He also commissioned the articles for, and was editorial advisor on, a special issue of Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (33: 2012).
He is currently (since 2013) an editorial advisory board member of Employee Relations and (since 2014) an executive board member of the International Association on Strikes and Social Conflicts and editorial board member of its journal Workers of the World. He continues to act as a referee for British Journal of Industrial Relations, Industrial Relations Journal, Work, Employment and Society, Capital and Class, Employee Relations, Labor Studies Journal, International Review of Social History, Labor History, Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, Journal of Contemporary History, Economic History Review, and Contemporary British History.
Ralph was an executive committee member of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association (BUIRA) for nine years (between 2005-18), with BUIRA awarding him honorary membership in 2018 and with a Fellowship in 2023.
For 25 years (1993-2018) he was secretary of the Manchester Industrial Relations Society (MIRS) - the primary forum for academic and practitioner debates in the field of industrial relations in the north-west of England – and remains a council member of MIRS.
He has been the principal organiser and plenary speaker at numerous conferences on issues related to his research (including the TUC’s 150th anniversary conference held in 2018), and has been consulted and interviewed by a variety of media channels (including BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5Live, ITV Granada Reports, BBC Parliament).

Areas of Research

Ralph's on-going 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 national railway network, 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 British strike waves of 1889-1890, 1910-1914 and 1919-20, the labour militancy of the early 1970s, the British labour movement solidarity for the 1913-14 Dublin lockout, the role of the TUC in significant industrial disputes over the last 150 years, and the British and 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. Other publications have contributed to methodological issues, including the role of partisanship and the ‘alter’-factual in employment relations and labour history research.
Ralph is currently researching to write a political biography of the legendary British labour movement figure of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Tom Mann.