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Wed 12 April
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Thu 13 April
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Fri 14 April
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Wednesday 12 April 2023 14.00 - 16.00
U-3 RUR02 Compulsory Labour in Premodern Rural Europe
Västra Hamngatan 25 AK2 133
Network: Rural Chair: Julia Heinemann
Organizers: Martin Andersson, Carolina Uppenberg Discussants: -
Moderators: -
Martin Andersson : Compulsory Labour by the Landless Poor in Sixteenth-century Sweden
Landed peasants in Medieval and Early modern Sweden usually had to perform corvée labour for the state as a part of their annual taxes. The landless, although working for and paying fees to the landholding peasants or land-owning lords, were on the other hand generally exempt from paying any taxes ... (Show more)
Landed peasants in Medieval and Early modern Sweden usually had to perform corvée labour for the state as a part of their annual taxes. The landless, although working for and paying fees to the landholding peasants or land-owning lords, were on the other hand generally exempt from paying any taxes to or performing any work for the crown. However, during a couple of decades in the middle of the sixteenth century, also landless men had to make annual contributions to the fiscal state, either through corvée labour at crown manors or through paying pecuniary fees. This paper explores how this compulsory labour for the rural poor came into being, by asking how it was motivated by the government officials when first introduced, how it was implemented and upheld over time, and why it seems to have come to an end after a comparatively short time. It will further address the practices of this compulsory labour: what forms of labour were demanded, how was this labour organised and supervised, and how important was it for the manorial economy of the crown. (Show less)

Jordan Claridge : Free and Unfree Labour on Medieval English Demesnes
In pre-industrial agrarian societies, the potential for economic growth was inexorably tied to the productivity of agricultural labourers. Unsurprisingly, agricultural labour productivity has featured prominently in most narratives of medieval economies. Low labour productivity in agriculture is often seen as part of the explanation for an early fourteenth-century Malthusain ... (Show more)
In pre-industrial agrarian societies, the potential for economic growth was inexorably tied to the productivity of agricultural labourers. Unsurprisingly, agricultural labour productivity has featured prominently in most narratives of medieval economies. Low labour productivity in agriculture is often seen as part of the explanation for an early fourteenth-century Malthusain crisis, while Marxist narratives point to lordly expropriation as a key factor in limiting peasant productivity. In medieval England, we know that lords employed both free and unfree labour on their personal demesne farms. We also know that the deployment of these different sources of labour changed over the course of the later Middle Ages, with wage labour becoming the dominant source of agricultural work, especially after the Black Death of 1348-50. What the current literature lacks, however, is a nuanced understanding of the full spectrum of labour on English demesnes. Did any manors use free or unfree labour exclusively? Were wage labourers typically engaged in different compared to their unfree colleagues? Finally, is it possible to estimate the relative productivity of free and unfree labour? This paper will address these questions with an examination of hundreds of manorial accounts drawn from manors across England between 1260 and 1450. (Show less)

Kilian Harrer : Enforcing the Industrious Revolution: Holidays, Fasting, and Compulsory Labour in Eighteenth-Century Poland-Lithuania
In the eighteenth century, Catholics across Europe faced a spate of holiday reforms that aimed to radically alter the organization of labour. Upon the requests of rulers, the papacy abolished the obligation to abstain from work on a number of holidays, creating more than a dozen additional work days per ... (Show more)
In the eighteenth century, Catholics across Europe faced a spate of holiday reforms that aimed to radically alter the organization of labour. Upon the requests of rulers, the papacy abolished the obligation to abstain from work on a number of holidays, creating more than a dozen additional work days per year in many countries. Based on the case of Belarus, I argue that religious reform galvanized attempts to marshal compulsory labour more effectively and implement from above something akin to the “industrious revolution” analyzed by Jan de Vries. In the eastern regions of Poland-Lithuania to which Belarus belonged, most peasants fell under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Catholic Church but practiced the Greek rite, which prescribed more numerous holidays and longer fasting periods than the Latin rite followed by Roman Catholics. In this context, landholding elites seeking to maximize profits from compulsory peasant labour lobbied at first for holiday and fasting reforms inside of Greek-rite Catholicism. When this project stalled, they turned to the next best solution: compelling their rural subjects to switch from the Greek to the already-reformed Latin rite. My paper will explain these strategic choices—and the resistance they provoked—by stressing the interplay of political, economic, and religious crisis in Poland-Lithuania. (Show less)

Marian Niedermayr : Compulsory Labour in Lower Austrian Manorial Agriculture, 1550-1750
The Lower Austrian manorial system in the Early Modern period has been characterized as a transition zone between the ideal types of “eastern demesne lordship” and “western rent-tacking lordship”. While some landlords raised their income in reaction to the sixteenth-century price revolution by selling goods to their subjects claiming banal ... (Show more)
The Lower Austrian manorial system in the Early Modern period has been characterized as a transition zone between the ideal types of “eastern demesne lordship” and “western rent-tacking lordship”. While some landlords raised their income in reaction to the sixteenth-century price revolution by selling goods to their subjects claiming banal rights, others expanded their arable demesne land and tried to establish new corvée obligations. Grain production was based on unpaid labour services by households equipped with the necessary draught animals for ploughing. In the production of wine, the dominant cash crop of Lower Austrian agriculture, wage labour relations were of major importance. In the seigneurial viticulture peculiar forms of remunerated corvée labour were established at the end of the sixteenth-century.1 It’s the aim of my paper to sketch the expansion of Lower Austrian manorial agriculture between 1550-1750 in quantitative terms, looking at urbarial records, tax assessments and accounting books. In a second step I want to reconstruct the different forms of labour arrangements in the cultivation of the seigneurial fields and vineyards and to discuss the perceptions of those labour relations in sources like instructions, correspondences or court records. This enables us to understand better how Lower Austrian landlords were able to enforce or negotiate corvée labour and what kind of limits or forms of resistance restricted their intentions. (Show less)

Göran Rydén : Female Work in Swedish Eighteenth Century Iron Making: a Concealed Aspect of Compulsory Labour
The labour history of metal-making have foremost been told in terms of skilled artisans making iron, steel, etc. It has been a story of mines, furnaces, forges and workshops, told in terms of how the global market structured division of labour and seasonality, and how authoritarian regimes enforced harsh working ... (Show more)
The labour history of metal-making have foremost been told in terms of skilled artisans making iron, steel, etc. It has been a story of mines, furnaces, forges and workshops, told in terms of how the global market structured division of labour and seasonality, and how authoritarian regimes enforced harsh working patterns and long working hours. This masculine sphere has been seen as a complex matrix of coerced labour, stretching from wage labour to feudal structures, and sometimes also related to slavery. Female labour has been conspicuously absent from these analysis. A reason for this absence has been a lack of sources, but also an reluctance to include ‘female participation’ in metal-making.

My ambition is to make amends, and stress the importance of female work to early-modern Swedish iron-making communities, or bruk. In this paper, I exploit previously unused sources to reveal the women’s concrete work, but also relate that to tasks performed by men as well as to insert it into the bruk’s overall structure and the demands from the global market. The empirical foundation, and the analysis, stems from a large micro-historical study of a few bruk in Uppland, presently being in the process of conclusion. (Show less)

Carolina Uppenberg : Contracted Coercion. The Swedish Crofter Institution in a Gender Perspective
In the preindustrial agrarian setting, labour was organized and structured with varying degrees of coercion depending on landowning, social standing, and gender. This article analyses the crofter institution, characterized by corvée labour (obligatory work as payment), from the perspective of gender and coercion to answer the question: how was the ... (Show more)
In the preindustrial agrarian setting, labour was organized and structured with varying degrees of coercion depending on landowning, social standing, and gender. This article analyses the crofter institution, characterized by corvée labour (obligatory work as payment), from the perspective of gender and coercion to answer the question: how was the crofter institution created, shaped, enabled and questioned? The right to establish a croft was a gendered concern which made the position as head of household available but at the same time increased social stratification through corvée labour. While crofters were masters of their households in contract signing; in organizing labour, their position was ambiguous. Regarding the physical integrity, the position of crofters resembled that of servants, who could be forced by physical violence and subject to rules not connected to work, such as subservience. The legal position of the crofters was characterized by the principle of contracts surpassing laws, and I argue that this was made acceptable through marriage. The strive to write the history as heading towards modernization and contracts between equals points to the 18th century as the repressive height. However, crofters were not offered protection until 1907, and continued to be demanded subservience and labour until 1943. (Show less)



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