Its primary goals are to reconstruct the evolution of the occupational structure of Britain from the late medieval period down to the early twentieth century and to encourage and promote similar work for other countries.
It has been designated a British Academy Research Project since 2007. Major funding has been provided by the ESRC, the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Isaac Newton Trust.
The OSB currently has 20 members including two emeritus Professors, three University lecturers; three research affiliates; three post-docs; four more senior researchers; one research assistant; one volunteer; four Ph.D. students and four masters students. Since 2007 the OSB has built up a network of international collaborators working on the occupational structures of 38 different countries on five continents who are committed to creating consistently coded harmonised datasets and undertaking systematic comparative work on long-run economic development.