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The verb-oriented method: A new approach to women's work in rural Europe
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of History. (Gender and Work)
2016 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Studies of rural women’s work in early modern Europe face many challenges. There is no occupational statistics to rely on. Except for the rather blank terms ‘servant’ and ‘maid’, few women in the countryside had occupational titles. The overwhelming part of their work was unpaid and has not left any traces in payrolls and alike sources. And because early modern sources pay most attention to households (which are usually headed by men) and to formal institutions (such as guilds), they conceal much of women’s work. This paper presents the verb-oriented method used by the Gender and Work project, which was designed so as to go around these problems. The term ‘verb-oriented’ singles out what sort of data is of interest. Instead of looking at designators or property as clues to what people made for a living, focus is on descriptions of practices or activities, e.g. ‘A made hay’, ‘B fished herring’ and ‘C sold herring’. Such evidence is fragmentary and dispersed. Yet, it can be found, collected and systematized. The verb-oriented approach is a wide and open one. It does not, a priori, position women’s work in the context of a family economy or start from the household as the given unit of production. Instead, the organizational framework of women’s work needs to be investigated empirically. Nor does the approach confine itself to a certain sector or branch. Instead, sources are gleaned for evidence of all sorts of work, including both what has been regarded as reproductive tasks (e.g. child care) and what may be considered production proper. The outcome is a view on women’s work in rural areas which stresses multiple employments and flexibility.

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Keyword [en]
Gender, work, occupations, rural history, early modern, database
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-287131OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-287131DiVA: diva2:922227
ESSHC (European Social Science History Conference), Valencia March 29 - April 2, 2016
Gender and Work
Available from: 2016-04-22 Created: 2016-04-22 Last updated: 2016-04-22

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Fiebranz, Rosemarie
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Department of History

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