Making a Living, Making a Difference: Gender and Work in Early Modern European Society (Paperback)Maria Agren (editor)
Paperback 272 Pages / Published: 05/01/2017
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What do people do all day? What did women and men do to make a living in early modern Europe, and what did their work mean? As this book shows, the meanings depended both on the worker and on the context. With an innovative analytic method that is yoked to a specially-built database of source materials, this book revises many received opinions about the history of gender and work in Europe. The applied verb-oriented method finds the 'work verbs' that appear incidentally in a wide variety of early modern sources and then analyzes the context in which they appear. By tying information technologies and computer-assisted analysis to the analytic powers - both quantitative and qualitative - of professional historians, the method gets much closer to a participatory observation of the micro-patterns of early modern life than was once believed possible. It directly addresses a number of broad problems often debated by historians of gender and early modern Europe. First, it discusses the problem of assessing more accurately the incidence, character and division of work. Second, it analyzes the configurations of work and human difference. Third, it deals with the extent to which work practices created notions of difference - gender difference but also other forms of difference - and, conversely, to what extent work practices contributed to notions of sameness and gender convergence. Finally, it studies the impact of processes of change. Drawing on sources from Sweden, the authors show the importance of multiple employment, the openness of early modern households, the significance of marriage and marital status, the gendered nature of specific tasks, and the ways in which state formation and commercialization were entangled in people's everyday lives.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 272
Weight: 394 g
Dimensions: 233 x 167 x 16 mm
"The essays situate work culturally and socially, finding that people performed group identity and social hierarchy through their work, constructing difference and sameness. The 'verb-oriented method' of tracing work offers excellent possibilities for the analysis of many types of economies, so though the essays are all about Sweden, they are highly suggestive for those interested in measuring work and its meaning anywhere. Highly recommended."--CHOICE
"Maria Agren and her team employ a straightforward method (analyze some 16,000 descriptions of people at work) to surprising result. They find women as managers, marriage as privilege, emerging states as reliant on working wives, and much, much more. Their book is a new touchstone for our understanding of work in early modern Europe."-- Judith M. Bennett, University of Southern California
"Complicating the categories and assumptions that have long driven the study of gender and work, this field-changing book has implications for scholars whose focus lies well beyond early modern Europe. Agren and her colleagues have applied 'big data' techniques to enduring questions with lively, often surprising, and certainly compelling effect."--Marla Miller, University of Massachusetts Amherst
"If you are going to read one book about the history of women's (and men's) work, this is it. Pioneering work, colorful detail, far-reaching analysis. Read and enjoy!"--Sheilagh Ogilvie, author of A Bitter Living: Women, Markets and Social Capital in Early Modern Germany
"The key arguments of this book, that work was an obligation while marriage was a privilege, rest on Swedish data, but need to be noted by all early modern historians, in particular those with interests in demography, protoindustry, state formation, and gender relations. It is a work of formidable primary and secondary collaborative research which will shape the direction of studies of gender and work in early modern Europe for the foreseeable future."--Tim Reinke-Williams, Gender and History
"A model...this large sustained research project has endeavored to get to the essence of gender and work in early modern Europe...The methodology and results have a universality that enables us to approach an answer to many of the questions about what people actually did...It reveals much that is surprising, its detail is engrossing, and the writing is engaging and readable while the authors' use of examples helps us to see into the past...It is an innovative, compelling, and comprehensive study of both women's and men's work."--Deborah Simonton, American Historical Review
"Through an analysis of fragmentary and often incidental evidence of work in the past, Agren and the Gender and Work Project Group have constructed a complex narrative revealing the interdependency and continuity of work in early modern households, showing how women's and men's working lives interacted and reacted to internal pressures...as well as external tensions...[They] have colourfully reimagined the personal and private wishes and anxieties of those living and working in the distant past...Overall...[they] have produced an integral part of the puzzle building towards a fully gendered account of work in early modern Europe."--Rebecca Mason, Women's History Reviews
"This volume makes a significant advance on our understandings of early modern work with a wonderfully simply idea: if you want to know what people were doing, look at the verbs...The 'verb-oriented method'...is an ingenious response to a set of choronic problems in finding systematic information about work, especially by women: the lack of occupational titles, the amount of unpaid or informal work, and the focus on male heads of households...A real pleasure of reading the book is the rich and concrete language...that brings the material practices of work to life."--James Fisher, History
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