The Swedish Gender and Work Database (GaW) now open to everyone

We are pleased to announce that the Gender and Work project at the Department of History, Uppsala University, has now made its unique database available online. On the new website you will find not only useful information about the project, its methodology, sources and results; you can also search the database yourself. Only a few clicks away is a corpus of more than 500,000 words of digitised source text from the late sixteenth to the late eighteenth century.



The texts have been selected because they bear witness to early modern working life. They can, however, be used for many other questions that historians might want to ask, not least with respect to everyday life in general. Each observation is merely a fragment of the past, but the quantity of fragments and the structure of the dataset will allow researchers to ask new questions and to draw new conclusions.

Needless to say, the corpus consists of text in early modern Swedish. But even if you do not read Swedish (or other Scandinavian languages), you will nevertheless be able to see for yourself how the text material is marked up and what the metadata are. For instance, red marks the activities, usually expressed in the form of a verb phrase, and yellow marks the performers of the activities. This will, we hope, give inspiration to other scholars, while at the same time increasing transparency and the possibilities for intersubjective control of data.

The research project was inspired by Sheilagh Ogilvie’s pioneering work A Bitter Living. The database was constructed by systems analysts at The Demograhic Database, Umeå University. The funding of both the research project and the digitization project was generously given by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and by the Swedish Research Council.

To find out more, visit the website and choose the English version. We recommend that you start with the section: “What is GaW”. You will find information here about the verb-oriented method, the database structure and the history of the project. If you want to look at the digitised text material, which is all in Swedish, you should choose “Search GaW”. You will now enter the database itself. We intend in due course to translate the fieldnames into English, but for now if you don’t read Swedish but want to get a feel for how the database looks and works, we suggest that you click “Visa fall”, write 7707 in the box (as an example) and then press “Hämta”. The database will show you a court case from seventeenth-century northern Sweden. You can see how the activities described in the case have been marked in red, and the people performing the activities in yellow.

This case was brought to court by the local clergyman who was displeased with not having received the tax, which was to be delivered in the form of castor, a chemical substance extracted from beavers. The case discloses how Swedish and Norwegian peasants and Sami people traded with castor across the border. As is so often the case in the court material, disputes spark discussions about people’s work and other everyday activities – discussions that lend themselves to historical analysis in ways that neither the pastor nor the court could possibly have imagined.



Professor Maria Ågren is Professor of History at Uppsala University and a partner in the Leverhulme Network, ‘Producing Change: Gender and Work in Early Modern Europe’. She leads the Gender and Work Project (GaW).


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