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.

Prof. Stefan Köngeter, OST, Switzerland.

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:

Social work research and/as memory work.

If you would like to participate in the SIG preconference, we have put out a call for abstracts.

Narratives, personal and collective memories, and storytelling are seen as crucial elements of social work and social work history. Social work research works with different forms of memory, such as personal, collective and public memory of events and processes that include traumatic narratives and narratives of injustice and violence. The discipline is known for advocating a shift away from "grand narratives" and canonised memory to give space and value to marginalised stories of people who have been silenced and made invisible. Some authors suggest that "doing" remembrance work/memory work is an important feature of democratic societies that promote narrativization instead of public silence. It is also a feature of political and critical social work research, as the culture of remembrance (‘from below’) can be understood as an important part of democratising everyday life. Collecting personal histories can create communities, change public discourses, and value systems of individuals and societies. When researching the history of social work events and processes, researchers work with both individual and collective memories. Personal memories, as Maurice Halbwachs put it, form "memory blocks", and shape public consciousness as well as "public truth." Social work history research recognises that not everyone has the same opportunities and rights to remember and recount. This is of particular concern when individual memories are traumatic, as in times of armed political conflict and its aftermath, in cases of domestic and institutional violence and abuse, in times of disaster, dictatorships etc., and when there is no space and chance for people to share their narratives and memories. In such contexts, personal and collective memories are marginalised or forgotten. Social work research can, at least, initiate the memory work.

 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 on April 12th, 2023.
  • The Focus of the special Interest Group (SIG) will be to explore the concept of “Memory Work”. Memory Work is a theoretical, practical, and political process that seeks to engage and examine the past with reference to the ethical and historical dimension.
  • We would welcome proposals that seek to examine memory work and the concept of social work through a variety of lenses.
  • The proposal may include reference to key concepts in memory work such as: political memory, memory activism, canonical memory, post-colonial history, and alternative histories of social work.

The deadline is: 16. December 2022. We look forward to receiving your proposals.

Please send your proposals to: Darren Hill,