Men at work. Wages and industriousness in southern Sweden 1500–1850

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In this paper, we use a brand new dataset to estimate and compare wages for casually and annually hired workers in early modern southern Sweden. We ask whether men in either situation could have supported families on the basis of their earnings. Findings indicate that casual earners would have been able to out-earn annual employees for most of the period 1500–1850, but by the eighteenth century when food prices had risen their relative comfort likely reversed. Similarly, while it was possible for long periods of time for men to earn a respectability basket on the basis of approximately 150 days work this was no longer true by the end of the eighteenth century. By that time, both groups would have increasingly struggled and other family members needed to contribute. Not only is this account inconsistent with the standard story of a nineteenth century male breadwinner family but it suggests that industriousness might not have been prompted by a desire to consume new commodities but by the need to maintain basic standards.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112
Number of pages128
JournalScandinavian Economic History Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History

Free keywords

  • Wages
  • casual labour
  • annualy hired
  • Early Modern
  • Industrious revolution


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