University Professor Robert Forrant

Robert Forrant, Ph.D.

Distinguished University Professor, Co-Director, Senior Research Fellow

College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Dugan Hall - 106


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

Research Interests

19th and 20th century U.S. history; Labor history; Immigration history; Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts history; Great Depression and New Deal


  • Ph D: History, (1994), University of Massachusetts Amherst - Amherst, MA
    Dissertation/Thesis Title: Skill Was Never Enough: the Decline of Metalworking in Springfield, Massachusetts 1900 -- 1970
  • MA: History, (1972), Northeastern University - Boston, MA
  • BA: History, (1970), Northeastern University - Boston, MA


Robert Forrant is a professor in the History Department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, teaching courses on global labor issues, labor history, immigration, and international development. He is director's of the department's graduate program. 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. Before completing his graduate education, he worked as a machinist and union business agent at the now closed American Bosch plant in Springfield , MA 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.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Teaching Excellence Award - UMass Lowell Department of Regional Economic and Social Development
  • President's Award for Public Service (1998) - University of Massachusetts Lowell

Selected Publications

  • Forrant, R. (2016). Massachusetts. Massachusetts Benchmarks, 18(1) 17-22.
  • Forrant, R. (2016). With Capital’s Wings Corporate Waste Flies. New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental & Occupational Health Policy, 25(4) 588-590.
  • Forrant, R. (2015). Empty Mills and Zombie Cities. Labor History, 56(1) 76-82.
  • Forrant, R. (2015). Empty Mills, No Jobs, Zombie Cities.
  • Forrant, R. (2015). The Deindustrialization Dynamic: U.S. Industry and Global Competition.
  • Forrant, R. (2014). Confronting Decline: The Political Economy of Deindustrialization in Twentieth-Century New England. The New England Quarterly, (3) 561-563.
  • Forrant, R. (2014). Review of David Koistinen, Confronting Decline: The Political Economy of Deindustrialization in Twentieth-Century New England. (87:3). University Press of Florida, 2013. New England Quarterly
  • Forrant, R., Siegenthaler, J. (2014). The Great Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912: New Scholarship on the Bread & Roses Strike. Baywood Publishing
  • Forrant, R. (2013). City of Possibilities: Lawrence on the Merrimack. Massachusetts Benchmarks, 15(1) 12-19.
  • Forrant, R., Grabski, S. (2013). Lawrence, Massachusetts and the 1912 Bread & Roses Strike. Arcadia Publishing, Images of America Series
  • Forrant, R. (2013). Review of Jefferson Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class. (40:2). The New Press, 2012. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
  • Forrant, R. (2013). Review of Mario Polese, The Wealth and Poverty of Regions: Why Cities Matter (87:2). University of Chicago Press, 2010. Business History Review
  • Forrant, R. (2013). Springfield, Massachusetts After the Finance Control Board: Is the Way Clear to a Sustainable Recovery? New England Journal of Public Policy, 24(1) 67-92.
  • Forrant, R. (2012). Review of Jeremy Brecher, Banded Together: Economic Democratization in the Brass Valley (65:3). University of Illinois Press, 2011. Industrial and Labor Relations Review
  • Forrant, R. (2011). At the Altar of the Bottom Line: The Degradation of Work in the 21st Century. Technology and Culture, 52(1).
  • Forrant, R. (2011). Labor in the New Urban Battlegrounds: Local Solidarity in a Global Economy. Labor History, 52(1).
  • Forrant, R. (2008). Chutes and Ladders: Navigating the low-wage labor market. Labor History, 49(1).
  • Forrant, R., Tran, L.P. (2008). Community-university Partnerships: a Tool for Development in Vietnam?
  • Forrant, R., Makrez, H.M. (2008). International Education's Importance in Higher Education: Social and Economic Impact.
  • Forrant, R. (2008). The Promise of Engaging in "Deep" Partnerships. New solutions : a journal of environmental and occupational health policy : NS, 18(2) 157-160.
  • Forrant, R., Reynolds, J. (2007). The North American Free Trade Agreement: Implications for Workers in Massachusetts.
  • Forrant, R., Bailey, K.J. (2005). A Study of Worker Burnout in the Massachusetts High Technology Sector.
  • Forrant, R. (2005). Follow the Work: A Response to Peter Waterman's 'Labour and New Social Movements in a Globalising World System'. Labor History, 46(2).
  • Forrant, R. (2005). The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law. Labor History, 46(3).
  • Forrant, R., Gaudet, J.L. (2005). The Dynamics of the Coalitions in the Anti-corporate Globalization Movement: a Massachusetts Case Study.
  • Forrant, R. (2005). The Student City: Strategic Planning for Student Communities in EU Cities. Journal of Regional Science, 45(4).
  • Forrant, R., Wilson, B. (2004). A Lifeline? Is the Massachusetts Nurses Association able to Shield Massachusetts RNs from the Impact of Health Care Industry Restructuring?
  • Forrant, R. (2004). Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the US/Mexico border. Labor History, 45(4).
  • Forrant, R. (2004). Disappearing into North Adams. Public Historian, 26(2).
  • Forrant, R. (2004). Industrial Sunset. The Making of North America's Rust Belt, 1969-1984. International Review of Social History, 49.
  • Forrant, R. (2004). To Save the Land and People: A History of Opposition to Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia. Business History, 46(3).
  • Forrant, R., Pyle, J.L. (2002). Globalization, Universities and Issues of Sustainable Human Development (pp. xvi).
  • Forrant, R. (2002). Reasonable Use: The People, the Environment, and the State, New England 1790-1930. Environmental History, 7(2).
  • Forrant, R. (2002). The International Association of Machinists, Pratt & Whitney, and the Struggle for a Blue-Collar Future in Connecticut. International Review of Social History, 47(SUPPL. 10) 113-136.
  • Forrant, R. (2001). Approaches to Sustainable Development: The Public University in the Regional Economy (pp. xv).
  • Forrant, R. (2001). Pulling Together in Lowell: The University and the Regional Development Process. European Planning Studies, 9(5) 613-628.
  • Forrant, R. (2001). The Rise of "The Rest": Challengers to the West from Late-industrialization Economies. Business History Review, 75(4).
  • Forrant, R. (2000). Between a Rock and a Hard Place: US Industrial Unions, Shop-floor Participation and the Lean, Mean Global Economy. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 24(6) 751-769.
  • Best, M.H., Forrant, R. (2000). Regional Industrial Modernization Programmes: Two Cases from Massachusetts. European Planning Studies, 8(2) 211-224.
  • Forrant, R., Breznitz, S.M. (2000). The Geography of Industrial Districts: Why does the Biotechnology Industry in Massachusetts Cluser in Cambridge?
  • Forrant, R. (1999). Global Flexibility--Shop Floor Flexibility: What's a Worker to do? New solutions : a journal of environmental and occupational health policy : NS, 9(2).
  • Forrant, R., Silka, L. (1999). Thinking and Doing - Doing and Thinking - The University of Massachusetts Lowell and the Community Development Process. American Behavioral Scientist, 42(5).
  • Forrant, R. (1998). Forcing the Factory of the Future: Cybernation and Societal Institutions. Industrial & labor relations review, 51(4).
  • Forrant, R., Flynn, E. (1998). Seizing Agglomeration's Potential: The Greater Springfield Massachusetts Metalworking Sector in Transition, 1986-1996. Regional Studies, 32(3) 209-222.
  • Forrant, R. (1997). Gastonia 1929: The Story of the Loray Mill Strike - Salmond. Industrial & labor relations review, 51(1).
  • Flynn, E., Forrant, R. (1997). The Manufacturing Modernization Process: Mediating Institutions and the Facilitation of Firm-level Change. Economic Development Quarterly, 11(2) 146-165.
  • Forrant, R. (1996). The Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills Strike of 1914-1915: Espionage, Labor Conflict, and New South Industrial Relations. Industrial & labor relations review, 49(4).
  • Forrant, R. (1995). Can Workers have a Voice - the Politics of Deindustrialization in Pittsburgh - Hathaway,da. Journal of Economic History, 55(1).

Selected Presentations

  • Holyoke: Powerhouse of the Pioneer Valley, 2012-2013 History Institute series, Emerging America, Teaching American History Program - Collaborative for Educational Services, April 2013
  • The Faces of the 1912 Bread & Roses Strike: Lewis Hine as Working Class Observer, February 2013 - Andover, MA
  • Emerging America: The United States Becomes a Superpower - Teaching American History, 2012 - Northampton, MA
  • U.S. Labor History from 1800 Ð 1940, 2012 - Boston, MA
  • U.S. Labor History from 1940 Ð 2012, 2012 - Boston, MA
  • Arturo Giovannitti and the Struggle for Justice in Lawrence, MA, November 2012
  • Immigrants and the 1912 Bread & Roses Strike - Massachusetts Genealogical Society Annual Meeting, November 2012
  • The 1912 Lowell, MA Textile Mill Strike, November 2012
  • The Bread & Roses Strike and Its Lessons for Labor Today - Massachusetts Nurses Association Annual Convention, October 2012 - Springfield, MA
  • The 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike: New Scholarship on a One Hundred Year-Old Event - New England Historical Association Annual Meeting, October 2012 - Merrimack College
  • Lawrence, the Immigrant City: 1912 Ð 2012 - Teaching American History, July 2012 - Dedham, MA
  • Pilot program on the 1912 Bread & Roses Strike, May 2012 - Lawrence, MA
  • United States Labor History, January 2012 - Lowell, MA
  • One-week Summer Workshop on Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Industrialization and its Social and Economic Affects - Springfield Public Schools Teaching American History, 2011 - Springfield, MA
  • Taking Center Stage: Conflict and Collaboration in the Peopling of Massachusetts - Presentation on the Bread & Roses Centennial Collaboration and Public History, June 2011
  • Industrialization, Organization and Mill Power in Lawrence, MA, 1880-1920, March 2011 - Andover, MA
  • The Civil War: Race, Reconstruction, and Reunion, January 2011 - Lowell, MA
  • Building Holyoke's Future, May 2010 - Holyoke, MA Heritage State Park
  • The Forge of Innovation: The Springfield Armory and Early Nineteenth Century American Industrial Development - Teaching American History Workshop, May 2010
  • Lowell and the Global Economic Meltdown - University of Massachusetts Inn & Conference Center Speakers Series, December 2009
  • New Challenges and Opportunities in an All-American City: Women Workers and Recent Immigrants in Lowell - New England American Studies Association Annual Conference, October 2009
  • Springfield Public Schools Lecture and Book Group Discussion of Metal Fatigue, October 2009 - Springfield, MA
  • - Massachusetts AFL-CIO Convention, September 2009
  • Convocation Presentation - UMass Lowell Learning in Retirement Association, September 2009
  • The Twists and Turns of the Greater-Lowell Economy - Moses Greeley Parker Lecture Series, March 2009 - Pollard Library, Lowell, Massachusetts
  • United States in Depression and War, January 2009 - Lowell, MA
  • The Cold War Economy and Domestic Politics, 2008
  • Rethinking Cities and Communities in the Context of Globalization and Transnationalism - Trinity College Center for Urban and Global Studies symposium, November 2008
  • - The Institute of Higher Education Workshop on Exploring the Role of the University in Economic Development, September 2008 - University of Georgia
  • United States History since 1945, September 2008 - Lowell, MA
  • Inside and Out: Universities and Education for Sustainable Development, November 2005
  • Are Finance Control Boards the Answer to Job Loss, Shrinking Revenues, and Grinding Decline: The Springfield, Massachusetts and Camden, New Jersey Cases - Committee on Industrial Theory and Assessment Conference, October 2005
  • Springfield Job Loss and the City's Frayed Social Safety Net - Future of Work in Massachusetts Conference, April 2005
  • Greater Springfield Massachusetts Deindustrialization: Staggering Job Loss, A Shrinking Revenue Base and Grinding Decline - Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Urban Studies and Planning Forgotten Cities seminar series, April 2005
  • Globalisation and degenerative productive systems: the case of the Connecticut River Valley Robert Forrant, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Frank Wilkinson, University of Cambridge - Clusters, Industrial Districts and Firms: The Challenges of Globalisation, September 2003
  • Commentator on Regions, Nations and Globalization, panel session, Cooperation, Competition and Industrial Policy - Business History Conference, June 2003
  • The International Association of Machinists, Pratt & Whitney, and the Struggle for Connecticut's Blue-Collar Future - University of Massachusetts Amherst Economic History and Development Workshop, 2002 - Amherst, MA
  • The University and the Challenges of Sustainable Economic Development - Urban Affairs Association Conference, 2002 - Boston, MA
  • Commentator on session Ghosts of Industries Past. - New England Historical Association 2002 conference, April 2002
  • Engineering Postwar Industry, Too Many Bends in the River: The Collapse of the Connecticut River Valley Machine Tool Industry and the Disruption of the Shopfloor Skill Base, 1945-1990. - Hagley Museum and Library Conference, 2001
  • Staff Workshop on 19th Century Working Class Formation, September 2001 - Lowell, MA
  • Rethinking the Theory and Practice of Enterprise Governance: Labor's Challenges, Labor's Opportunities in the New Economy - Industrial Relations Research Association Symposium, 2000
  • Creative Work Systems in Destructive Markets - International Working Party on Labour Market Segmentation Conference, 2000 - Manchester, England
  • Providence, Rhode Island: Public Policy, Broad-Based Partnerships and the Transition to the New Economy - Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Territorial Development Service, Regional Review of Bergamo, Italy Benchmark Project, Paris, France., 2000
  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place: US Industrial Unions and the Lean, Mean Global Economy - Cambridge Journal of Economics and the Cambridge University Institute of Employment Rights conference on Economic Efficiency and Social Justice, 1999 - Cambridge, England
  • - Economic and Social Research Council Center for Business Research at Cambridge University conference on Corporate Restructuring, 1999
  • Building on Strengths: Helping Local Economies Become More Competitive - Appalachian Regional Commission Conference, January 1999 - Lexington, Kentucky
  • Staff Workshop on 19th Century Managerial Strategies in the Lowell Textile Mills, September 1998 - Lowell, MA
  • Work Rules, Job Content, and the Struggle For Worker Voice on American Shop-floors - University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Industrial Competitiveness Seminar, 1997 - Lowell, MA
  • The Organizational Failure of the US Machine Tool Industry in the Face of Globalization - International Metalworkers Federation and International Labour Organization Conference: The Machinery Industry: Globalization, Employment and New Enterprise Strategies, November 1997 - Geneva, Switzerland
  • Brimfield Precision and Continuous Improvement - University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Industrial Competitiveness Seminar, September 1997 - Lowell, MA
  • Educational Program for Industrial Officers and Manufacturing Modernization Field Agents from Moldova, August 1997
  • Shop Floor Skills in the Continuous Improvement and Innovation Process, August 1997 - Westborough, Massachusetts
  • Industrial Modernization and Small Firms in Perspective - Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy and Economic Development seminar on Industrial Modernization: Policy, Practice, and Evaluation, April 1997
  • Collaborating for Success: Implementing Next-Generation Manufacturing Actions - Next Generation Manufacturing Conference, April 1997 - Gaithersburg, Maryland
  • Machine Tools, Technology, and Worker Skills - Tenth Annual Labor Segmentation Conference, April 1997
  • The U.S. Machine Tool Industry and Competitive Advantage - Conference on Organizational Integration and Competitive Advantage in the Automobile Industry, March 1997 - INSEAD Euro-Asia Center, Fontainebleau, France
  • The Manufacturing Modernization Process - University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Industrial Competitiveness Seminar, September 1996 - Lowell, MA

Selected Contracts, Fellowships, Grants and Sponsored Research

  • 2009-2012 Learn and Serve America Consortium Grant: Building on the Promise (2009), Contract - CORP FOR NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • Service Project Support (2009), -
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • GEAR UP Massachusetts - College Readiness Partnership / RTI Grant (2010), Grant -
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • Nature of Dogs (now Tough Love), documentary film seed grant (2010), Grant - University Research and Scholarship Council
    Forrant, R.
  • The Science of Small Things (2007), Grant -
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • Ethnographic Research Support (2009), Grant -
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • Management and Youth Work/Programming (2009), -
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • Community Organizing and Youth Services (2008), -
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • Performance Stat System (2008), -
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • Permitting process form update (2008), -
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • Student Assistance to the Department of Program Planning and the Division of Hous (2007), Grant -
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • UMass Lowell Graduate School of Education Teaching American History Institute, Scholar-in-Residence (2008), -
    Forrant, R.
  • Merrimack Valley Economic Development Councils Creative Economy Initiative (2008), Grant -
    Forrant, R. (Principal)
  • Kate B. and Hall J. Peterson Fellow (2001), Fellowship - American Antiquarian Society
    Forrant, R.
  • University of Massachusetts Lowell Public Service Endowment Grant (1998), Grant -
    Forrant, R.
  • (1995), Sponsored Research - Center for Industrial Theory and Assessment
    Forrant, R.