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Robert Forrant

Robert Forrant

Robert Forrant, History

Distinguished University Professor, Co-Director, Senior Research Fellow
Dugan Hall 106B


U.S. History, Labor Studies, Global Development, Industrial History

Research Interest

Specializes in labor, technology, and urban and regional economic and social development issues. 

Russell Sage Foundation. Co-principal investigator with Professor William Lazonick, "Growing Your Own in the New Economy:  A Study of Skill Formation in the New England Optical networking Industry," 2001-2003. 

Massachusetts Benchmarks Initiative regional economic analysis for Northeast Massachusetts, ongoing.  Key economic indicators research project including employment, unemployment, wage and salary information, industry trends and international trade as part of system-wide faculty research team coordinated through the University President’s office. 

Educational Background

Ph.D. University of Massachusetts at Amherst


Dr. Forrant is a professor in the History department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, teaching courses on global labor issues and international development. He supervises numerous graduate students, masters degree theses and doctoral dissertations.

He has been a consultant to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the International Labour Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Metalworkers Federation, and several trade unions. His research activities have been funded by, among others: the International Metalworkers Federation, the International Labour Organization, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Russell Sage Foundation, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the cities of Lowell and Leominister, Massachusetts.

Professor Forrant is the editor of three volumes on sustainable regional development, the author of numerous published articles and reports and a forthcoming book on industrial development and decline in the Connecticut River Valley and New England . He is on the editorial boards of two academic journals, Labor History and New Solutions. With Professor Charles Levenstein is editor of the Baywood Press book series Work, Health and Environment. Before completing his graduate education, he worked as a machinist and union business agent at the now closed American Bosch plant in Springfield , Massachusetts and ran a community-based economic development program. 

He received the University of Massachusetts President's Award for Public Service in 1998. He received an American Antiquarian Society Kate B. and Hall J. Peterson Fellowship in 2001 and during that year began research on Worcester Massachusetts-area machine tool firms in the period 1830-1875. 

He analyzes and reports on the Massachusetts industrial economy for the journal Massachusetts Benchmarks, a joint publication of the University of Massachusetts and the New England Federal Reserve Bank and he writes a monthly column on the economy for the Lowell Sun. 

His publications include: 
Skill Was Never Enough: The Rise and Precipitous Decline of the Connecticut River Valley Industrial Corridor, Baywood Publishers, in the Series, Work, Health and Environment, forthcoming 2007. 

With Linda Silka, eds., Inside and Out: Universities and the Sustainable Regional Development Process, Baywood Publishers, forthcoming 2006. 

With Jean Pyle, eds., Globalization, Universities and Issues of Sustainable Human Development, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2002. 

With Jean Pyle, William Lazonick and Charles Levenstein, eds., Approaches to Sustainable Regional Development: The Public University in the Regional Economy, University of Massachusetts Press, 2000. 

“Adaptive Reuse of Buildings: If it is Already Built, Will They Come?” in Elisabeth Hamin, Priscilla Geigis and Linda Silka, eds. Preserving and Enhancing Communities: A Guide for Citizens, Planners and Policymakers, University of Massachusetts Press , forthcoming, 2007. 

“Greater-Springfield Deindustrialization, A Shrinking Economic Base and Grinding Decline,” in Tom Juravich, ed., The Future of Work in Massachusetts , University of Massachusetts Press , forthcoming, 2006. 

“Greater Springfield Massachusetts Deindustrialization: Staggering Job Loss and Grinding Decline,” New England Journal of Public Policy, 20 (2), 2005, 67-88. 

“Work Systems, Corporate Strategy and Global Markets: Creative Shop Floors or a 'Barge Mentality'?", with Suzanne Konzelmann and Frank Wilkinson, Industrial Relations Journal, 35, 2004 (3), 216-32. 

"The Roots of Connecticut River Valley Deindustrialization: The Springfield American Bosch Plant 1940-1975,” Historical Journal of Massachusetts , Winter 2003, 90-106. 

“Creative Work Systems in Destructive Markets: The Late-20th Century Steel and Metalworking Industries,” with Suzanne Konzelmann, in Brendan Burchell, Simon Deakin, Jonathan Michie, and Jill Rubery, eds., Systems of Production: Markets, Organisations and Performance, London: Routledge, 2002. 

“Too Many Bends in the River: The Post-World War II Decline of the Connecticut River Valley Machine Tool Industry,” Journal of Industrial History, 5 (2) 2002, 71-91. 

“The International Association of Machinists, Pratt & Whitney, and the Struggle for a Blue-Collar Future in Connecticut ,” International Review of Social History, 47, 2002, 113-36. 

“Pulling Together in Lowell : The University and the Regional Development Process,” European Planning Studies, 9, 2001, 615-30. 

“Neither a sleepy village nor a coarse factory town: Skill in the Greater Springfield Massachusetts Industrial Economy 1800 - 1990,” Journal of Industrial History, 4, 2001, 24-47. 

“Between a Rock and a Hard Place: US Industrial Unions and the Lean, Mean Global Economy: Unions on the Shop Floor as the Next Century Approaches,” Cambridge Journal of Economics, 24 (6) 2000, 751-69. 

“Regional Industrial Modernization Strategies: Two Massachusetts Case Studies,” with Michael Best, European Planning Studies, 8, 2000, 211-23. 

Current and recent research activities and projects: 

Research for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Connecticut to determine the impact of industrial job loss since 2000 on workers in New England . 

United States Department of Education Teaching American History Grant 2002-2005. Principal project historian to multi-year $3 million grant with Lowell Public Schools , the Tsongas Industrial History Center and the University of Massachusetts Lowell .   

Co-principal Investigator with Professor Linda Silka, 3-year, $400,000 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Outreach Partnership Grant to the University of Massachusetts Lowell , 1996 - 2004.