Everyone worked: work patterns and household labor allocation in early modern Sweden

Projekt: Forskning



One of the paramount goals of economic history is to understand the way people made a living and organized their lives in the past. Who worked, and what did they do? What was a ‘respectable’ standard of living and how did this change over time? What did families need to do to attain it? How was this different between class groups and over space?

The importance of household labor organization and production is hard to overstate; this is especially the case in early modern and pre-industrial economies. Manufacturing and industry still took place largely within households, and could often be the labor of an entire household. Because of this, national-level wealth and national trends follow household trends. The overwhelming focus of wage and labor market research has been about men. But households were, and remain, the fundamental backbone of society and the economy. Men’s work is, of course, fundamental, but in many ways it is women’s work and the changes in women’s work which drive the biggest social and economic changes in the long run.

This study takes a close look at labor organization at a household level, and the ways in which this is reflected by the greater society. The focus is on the many, the typical, and the poor of the city, through a series of investigations on household labor in early modern Stockholm and Sweden. Despite wage and prices studies with a focus on Stockholm, we lack a strong and quantitative understanding of Stockholm’s labor market and economy in a way which actually reflects the everyday lives if its inhabitants and how they worked together to survive. We investigate household labor allocation, spinning and spinners, spatial dimensions of inequality, and the true costs of supporting a household in order to understand how everyone worked.

This project positions itself at the front of the research frontier. It uses new data to answer some of the most pressing – and still little understood – questions about fundamental experiences in the day-to-day. The questions posed above are among the most essential for understanding the foundation of any society or economy: households.
Kort titelEveryone worked
Gällande start-/slutdatum2019/07/012022/07/01