For this transnational symposium, DePOT commissioned three researchers (Roberta Garruccio, Fred Burrill and Xavier Vigna) to review Andy Clark’s Fighting Deindustrialisation: Scottish Women’s Factory Occupations, 1981-82 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2023) in the lead up to the June 2023 DePOT conference on gender and family in Glasgow. We end this symposium with the response of Andy Clark, formerly of the Oral History Collective at Newcastle University, who is a newly hired permanent faculty member at the University of Stirling. Andy Clark has published widely on deindustrialization in the UK, with a particular focus on Scotland. 


I must begin my response to the three reviews by stating how much I’ve enjoyed this process. I feel incredibly lucky to have had my first monograph scrutinised by scholars whose work I admire, and who have taken the time to closely engage with the research and the text. Thanks to Steve High for nominating my book and for asking me to participate in this symposium, and thanks of course to Roberta, Fred, and Xavier for their comments and critiques. One thing I discovered in writing Fighting Deindustrialisation is how terrifying it is to release your work into the world; my internalised imposter syndrome and a consistent fear of being ‘found out’ increased tenfold post publication. However, this symposium has allowed me the opportunity to have my work examined, not only by outstanding deindustrialisation scholars, but colleagues whose views I respect, whose critiques come from a place of support, and a desire to continually improve the standards of our research.

The main thing that struck me when reading the three pieces is the importance of choices that we make during the research, writing, editing, and publication processes. Sometimes these are individual decisions; other times they are shaped by circumstance, or through guidance from our advisors, colleagues, and publishers. It speaks to our shared interests across geographies that many of the comments spoke to the choices I’ve made over the last ten years – rightly or wrongly – in the production of the work. This breadth of shared interests, foci, and avenues for further research demonstrates the maturity of deindustrialisation studies as an emergent, international discipline.

All three reviews stressed that these factory occupations have been forgotten, and I’m pleased that this came through in the text. The process of forgetting is crucial in our understandings of the recent past and, as Roberta commented, is central to how oral historians attempt to reconstruct and interpret memory; what is forgotten is as significant as what is recalled. That these disputes have been forgotten in public memory underpinned much of my motivation in researching and writing about them, and my finding that this led to self-marginalisation and internal forgetting is – I think – highly significant in how we understand the gendering of deindustrial memory. This book is a very small attempt to rectify this, and its inclusion in an international symposim will go some way to do that – there are now scholars across the deindustrialised world who are aware of the occupations in 1981 and 1982, and who may discuss them, reference them, and possibly teach about them. Whilst that is a great step forward, I am now concerned about how I (or we, as scholars of deindustrialisation) penetrate the public and popular memory of the period. Fighting Deindustrialisation isn’t a book that a non-academic would pick up and flick through, or take with them on holiday to read by the pool. It couldn’t be – I was under no illusions that my first monograph, developed from my thesis, had to make an academic contribution to advance my career and to be included in the Research Excellence Framework, etc., etc. But in so doing, I’ve failed to address the concern that I raised throughout the text; to rectify the public forgetting of these disputes and work to incorporate them in popular retellings of the period of accelerated deindustrialisation. This work continues, and I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss avenues for this with colleagues at the upcoming conference in Glasgow.

Each of the reviewers noted the importance of resistance in shaping the text, and in contributing to our evolving studies of deindustrialisation. In analysing the recent developments within the literature, I am struck by how little attention is afforded to acts of resistance – large and small in scale – to the process of downsizing and closure. As I reflected, instances such as the occupations analysed in the book were the exception, but I wonder if more needs done to understand why that was the case, particularly in industries renowned for industrial militancy. Or, perhaps there have been other instances of success that are underrepresented in the literature. The role of gender and mobilisations cannot be understated in the Scottish experience at the time, and I am currently working with Lauren Laframboise on a comparative analysis of women-dominated unions in the UK and North America, particularly in the clothing and textile industries, to understand how resistance was encouraged or, more commonly, stifled by the labour bureaucracy.

This collaboration with Lauren chimes with another key point raised by the reviewers, that of scaling up. I think my argument could’ve been made clearer in the book, likely caused by my at-times indirect writing style. I urge the field to encourage both local analyses and transnational examinations of the deindustrialised world. This is a defence of the micro, rather than a critique of the macro, in the future development of our work. As a fledgling field of study in its own right, one occasionally senses that deindustrialisation scholars are overly eager to scale up and thus risk losing sight of the local. Xavier made a pointed critique on this, asserting that I – like many UK labour historians – am ‘not interested’ in other European countries and the experiences across the continent. I agree that the presentation of the book may give this impression, but it is reflective of the choices made rather than a lack of interest which I would challenge.1 The research for the book – and my PhD thesis (2017) – devoted significant attention to the longer history of occupation as a mode of protest, particularly in France, Italy, and the USA in the interwar period. However, the focus of the book was to reconstruct and understand a specific period of Scottish labour history, and a broader international discussion would have diverted too far from that objective, therefore the research was omitted. I agree that further international comparison is required, and I worked with Jackie Clarke and Valerie Wright on guest-editing an issue of International Labour and Working Class History (2023) to bring together such work. It was not, however, within the remit of this book.

Xavier also questioned my use of the word ‘community’, and I think this might be a difference in language use in Scotland than elsewhere, as I have been questioned on this by European scholars before. My use of community refers to the local; North American writers often discuss ‘neighbourhoods’, but this doesn’t align with Scottish vernacular. I use community to denote a group of people from the same geographical area, often with similar experiences and perspectives, but never claim them to be a homogenous group. When I discuss the ‘community fightback’ against closure, this could be replaced with ‘large numbers of the locality fought back and supported the struggle’ – but this wouldn’t address the issues of definition that have been raised. I’m unsure if we could – or should – achieve this, as I’m unclear what it would add to the overall narrative of the occupations and their significance.

Fred’s review also speaks to a couple of the decisions that I made. In particular, his question over how labour process contributed to collective action was an area that I had intended to incorporate (and had done the research), but it was felt that the discussion diverted from the argument regarding nostalgia and motivations for mobilisation. This is a pity, and I should have retained this aspect of the argument, as it supports my overall critique of mobilsiation theory as being overly linear. As Roberta notes, these layers of experience contributed to the development of collective action, and this is an omission on my part. The evidence from the oral history interviews demonstrated that the organisation of production, the labour process, and the management/supervision structures were crucial in mobilisation; this is something that I may try to publish as a standalone piece elsewhere, time and capacity permitting. Another choice that was noticed was that there is less focus on capital than the workers involved, with Fred correctly commenting that this runs the risk of ‘rescuing marginalised voices’. The decision I had was whether to prioritise archive research on the localities, on the workers’ disputes, and on their trade union organisations; it would have been incredibly difficult to have also included archival analyses of the internationally-headquartered companies, and near impossible within the short 3-year funding cycle of a UK PhD. I did try to find a member of senior management from each site, tracking them through subsequent career trajectories and, in two occasions, sending emails via LinkedIn, but with no response. But this is a shortcoming I recognise and, if circumstances allow, I’d look to rectify in future work in this area.

I’m delighted that the three readers have found value in the book, and plenty of points for discussion, praise, and critique. I’d encourage any members of Depot with upcoming publications to consider taking part in this process; I know that it will strengthen my future publications and a hopeful monograph No. 2.

See you all in Glasgow!