Social Work, History and Research

The general aim of the group is to provide a forum to bring together scholars with areas of interest in issues related to history, archival research, and social work research. This includes the history of all aspects of social work as well as the history of research in social work. Social work is a rather young profession derived from a broad range of social developments in the last centuries. Therefore, the group intends to incorporate within it the research undertaken by various disciplines that are engaged in historical research on social work, social work research and welfare production. It is an interdisciplinary forum. Archival research, oral history approaches, as well as historic visual material analysis play a pivotal role in this context to explore the various historical facets of social work and research within it. Hence, our group regards methodological reflections on the respective research strategies indispensable to advance social work historiography. In line with the goals of ESWRA, we emphasize the ongoing interconnection of developments in social work across national boundaries in Europe and beyond. This transnational perspective places special emphasis on the flows and translations of knowledge, practices, theories and policies influencing historical developments in countries across the globe. These translations reflect that social work as an important field of social development that is located in a conflictive space, with numerous actors, contrasting interests, and power differentials that are documented, archived, and interpreted in various ways. Our group considers itself as an open forum for these diverging approaches to the history of social work and social work research.


Prof. Susanne Maurer, University of Marburg, Germany.

Prof. Darja Zaviršek, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Dr. Darren Hill, Leeds Beckett University, UK.

The Social Work, History and Research SIG 2023 Preconference this year will be formed around the following theme:

“Radical Moments”: Social Work History and Technology Revisited.

The development of Social Work as a profession and institutionalized field can be directly linked to social change and the advancement of technology. The history of social work runs parallel to industrialisation and urbanisation in the nineteenth century. 

The rise of the city and factory has resulted in the need for technical specialists in social welfare to provide safety, security, and support of people as well as surveillance, control, and management of urban populations.

Each age of technology has created great opportunity and wealth but has also resulted in the displacement and marginalisation of the people who have been living in vulnerable contexts. The advance of technology has also led to greater measurement of work performance, measurement of time and in Foucauldian terms, management or governing of “populations”. 

Over time technology, transport and machines have advanced causing conflict and change, and at the same time automation and the digital age is reducing the need and capacity for people to have meaningful employment and is causing seismic shifts in our work and life patterns. 

While there are many benefits to technological and social change, including enhanced communication, improved technology, and new economic opportunities, the rapid pace of technological develop can also amplify alienation and social isolation, as well as exacerbate already existing social and economic inequalities.

The Social Work, History and Research SIG Call for Papers.

The Social Work, History and Research group would like to invite you to submit an abstract for our Special Interest Group pre-conference meeting.

We are hosting a full day SIG and will divide the day into two distinct slots: 

Part 1 of the day will look at: The concept of “Radical Moments” with direct reference to social work history, technology, and social change.


·         How did technology influence the work traditions in social work across countries and regions?

·         How did it impact on service users, and how did it impact the defined “social problems” and social relationships?

·         How has technology amplified and enhanced surveillance of social work practice and the lives of social work service users?


The proposal may include reference to key concepts in social work history, radical social movements, key social work figures, and how technology has shaped social work practice and interventions within the communities we serve.

Part 2 of the day will be open to all papers examining any aspect of social work history and history related research. We would welcome proposals that seek to examine these issues with the use of the critical memory work and social work concepts through a variety of lenses, positions, positionalities, regions, and countries.

The deadline is: 15. December 2023. We look forward to receiving your proposals.

Please send your proposals to: Darren Hill,