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Forms of Labour: Gender, Freedom and Experience of Work in the Preindustrial Economy

Forms of Labour: Gender, Freedom and Experience of Work in the Preindustrial Economy

Objective

The history of labour and its role in Europe’s preindustrial development has very largely been the history of adult men. FORMSofLABOUR seeks to put other workers in the picture, particularly women and servants, not simply by ‘adding them on’ but by showing how a full understanding of women’s work and of service offers a radical critique of existing approaches to work and to the idea of free labour. It focuses on England in the period 1300-1700 viewed in a comparative Western European perspective, and addressed these issues through three themes. (1) A revolutionary research technique which collects evidence of work tasks from court records to simulate a time-use study is used to explore the experience of work. This technique allows the work activities of women and men, young and old, employees and family members to be illuminated, with evidence of tasks, location and timing of work, creating an entirely new perspective on England’s early modern economy. (2) The theoretical underpinnings of the history of women’s work in the preindustrial economy are explored, reassessing key debates using interdisciplinary perspectives from economics and political science, as well as new archival evidence from themes 1 and 3. Gendered work patterns are viewed through the lens of freedom, rather than patriarchy, to create a step-change in our understanding of gender and work. (3) The issue of the extent to which labour was ‘free’ after the end of serfdom is interrogated through a careful examination of the range of forms of labour and the nature of labour laws, using a variety of archival evidence combined with a comparisons with serfdom and slavery, and the adoption of insights from development economics and anthropology. Together these interlocking themes create a new history of work in the economy which formed the background to grand narratives of Smith and Marx, arguing that with women and servants had been in picture, the story of economic development is transformed.
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Host institution

THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

Address

The Queen'S Drive Northcote House
Ex4 4qj Exeter

United Kingdom

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 1 611 639

Beneficiaries (2)

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THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

United Kingdom

EU Contribution

€ 1 611 639

UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL

United Kingdom

EU Contribution

€ 54 926

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 834385

Status

Grant agreement signed

  • Start date

    1 September 2019

  • End date

    31 August 2024

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 1 666 565

  • EU contribution

    € 1 666 565

Hosted by:

THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

United Kingdom