Call for Papers: Rural History 2019 Panel – Service and the Labour Laws in Comparative Perspective

RHN 3/2019 | Call

Organisers: Jane Whittle (Department of History, University of Exeter, UK) and Thijs Lambrecht (Department of History, University of Ghent, Belgium)

Rural History 2019, 10-13 September 2019, Paris, France

Deadline for paper proposals: 1 February 2019


Call for Papers:
Rural History 2019 Panel
Service and the Labour Laws in Comparative Perspective: Europe 1300-1850

Service was ubiquitous in rural Europe between 1300 and 1850. Young unmarried men and women working as servants were the most heavily regulated part of the paid rural labour force. Surprisingly, there has never been a comparative history of the labour laws in this period. What is more, historians of the labour laws have tended to concentrate on the regulation of wages, rather than the form in which labour was provided. Labour regulations sought to control many aspects of service as well as wages, such as the length of contracts, broken contracts, the types of payments (in cash or in kind) by which servants were paid, and mobility of servants. However, perhaps the most striking clauses were those that placed young people in compulsory service, even if they already had somewhere to live or were earning wages from day labouring. This type of regulation was common in the early modern period in many European countries and demonstrates the preference of regulating authorities (local and national governments) for unmarried people to work as servants rather than labourers.

Papers in this session should explore the relationship between labour laws and service: examining the nature of the laws, who created them and why, the forms of labour and types of worker they envisaged, the implications of the laws for the rural labour market, the implications of the laws for ideas about work and social control, and how and to what extent the laws were enforced in different regions.


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