Approaching Public Engagement: Sharing Early Modern Women in a ‘Plus One’ World

This post comes from Gina G. Bennett, a fourth year doctoral student of Transatlantic History at The University of Texas at Arlington. Her dissertation, under the direction of Dr. Kenyon Zimmer, will focus on the influence of women and the degree to which they participated as migrators, producers, labourers, and investors for The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies in the transatlantic world in the early modern era. She holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in History from Texas A & M – Commerce.  Follow her on WordPress: GinaGBennett.com or Twitter: @GinaGBennett

 

Gina G. Bennet (The University of Texas at Arlington)

Like many readers of the Gender and Work in Early Modern Europe blog, we each are occasionally called to step beyond conferences, lecture halls, and speak outside academia. Often these events take place at a museum or civic building and often include a meal.  People of two sorts are in attendance, the ones choosing to attend and the extra person who comes along as a favor to the first.  This unsuspecting person, a “plus one” on the RSVP card, is possibly less than eager to attend.  Let us call this place where they gather together a  “plus one” space.   Here, history is learned in a more casual way.  There is a reward in winning over the plus ones in this group.  I always jump at the chance to share my research on seventeenth-century Scottish women operating within the transatlantic world with anyone.  But I must admit that sometimes the occasion is a mixture of three parts elation and one part fear.  So let me share with you a compilation of questions that have surfaced from time to time after various presentations of Scotland’s transatlantic colonial venture in a plus one setting described above.

It generally goes something like this: first, after I explain how Scotland attempted to set up a colony in Panama in the 1690s the audience usually are surprised that a Scottish colony was attempted at all.  Mind you, I am an American living in the Southwest so the general knowledge of Scottish history is sparse and often based on geographic archetypical stereotypes. Secondly, someone usually asks, “Why Panama?” Here I can briefly touch on the history of Nova Scotia, sundry navigation acts, throne changes in the seventeenth century, and the overarching drive for status, goods, and revenue related to colonization.  Audiences seem most fascinated by the details of the individual Scottish women that I study, many of whom are central actors in my dissertation research.  They ask questions about these women’s lives and the listener’s faces reflect the intermingling of this new information meshing with their own understanding of early modern life.

Finally, a plus one, perhaps more cynical than the rest, raises their hand to ask, (get ready for that fear part, I mentioned earlier…) “Didn’t these women just take their husband’s money and invest it under their own name?”  Continue reading “Approaching Public Engagement: Sharing Early Modern Women in a ‘Plus One’ World”

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How to define and understand early modern work?

This post on defining work comes from Jezzica Israelsson, a doctoral student at Uppsala University, where she is a member of the Gender and Work project. Her thesis analyzes descriptions of work in petitions to certain regional administrations in Sweden between ca. 1760 to 1880, in order to find out what role work played when people sent in these letters and what meanings they ascribed to work in their struggle to protect their rights.

Jezzica Israelsson (Uppsala University)

In today’s society, the concept of work is strongly connected to productive and remunerated activities, often performed outside of the home.[1] In early modern times however, there were no clear boundaries between either home and work or leisure and work. Many things people did for their sustenance were not paid, and if they were it was often in kind or through lodging and food.[2] Recent research has also shown that men and women rarely had one occupation, but engaged in many different tasks to make a living.[3] In addition, society was characterized by some living off the returns of their property and others by their manual labour.[4]

First page of Anna Nilsdotter's letter
Anna Nilsdotter’s letter, 1734, Uppsala landsarkiv (See note 5 below)

These complexities make it clear that delineating what constituted early modern work can be quite problematic. In this post I will highlight two situations where these difficulties are illustrated and what consequences different definitions might have. The examples are taken from the sources I am working on within my thesis project: petitions to regional administrations in Sweden.

 

Continue reading “How to define and understand early modern work?”

Call for Papers: Apprenticeship, Work and Creation in Early Modern Europe

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CFP: Apprenticeship, work and creation in early modern Europe 
Coordinators: Anna Bellavitis (Université de Rouen Normandie-GRHIS / IUF), Valentina Sapienza (Université de Lille 3-IRHIS)

The education of new generations and the transmission of knowledge and skills from one generation to another is of course the fundament of any society, at any time. Recent historical researches have underlined the complexity of apprenticeship in early modern Europe and also its numerous varieties: apprentices could learn at home, with their parents and relatives, with the master or mistress and his/her family, or in charitable institutions. The topic of apprenticeship is, by its own nature, transversal and needs multidisciplinary analysis. Labour history, history of the techniques, of innovation and artistic creation, history of education and gender and family history are some of the approaches that can be used for a comprehensive study of apprenticeship in early modern Europe.

Some questions that can guide our analysis:

– Apprenticeship and guilds: is it a necessary link?

– Places of apprenticeship: family home, the master’s – or mistress’ – house and workshop, charitable institutions?

– Which knowledge and skills were transmitted to apprentices?

– What was the relation between apprenticeship and innovation?

– What kind of relations could exist – or had to exist – between masters, mistresses and apprentices?

– Was apprenticeship a work relation or a mode of education?

– Who could have access to apprenticeship?

– What happened to apprentices after the end of the apprenticeship period?

– What was the role of apprenticeship in the general economic evolution of early modern Europe and in the « little divergence » ?

If you are interested by these topics, please send an abstract (max 300 words) before March 31 st 2017 to anna.bellavitis@univ-rouen.fr and to valentina.sapienza@univ-lille3.fr

 

Call for applications: Postgraduate Workshop on Apprenticeship and Transmission of Knowledge

apprenticeships-and-transmissions-of-knowledge

CALL FOR APPLICATIONS

X Seminar of Ph.D. Studies on The sources for European Economic History (13th-18th centuries)

APPRENTICESHIPS AND TRANSMISSIONS OF KNOWLEDGE

ArezzoFraternita dei Laici

3-7 July 2017

The Universities of Lille (IRHiS Lab) and Rouen (GRHIS Lab), in collaboration with ANR, IUF, Grand Réseau de Recherche-CSN, Université Paris-7 «Denis Diderot», Institut d’histoire moderne et contemporaine (CNRS-ENS-Université Paris-1), Fraternita dei Laici of Arezzo and the University of Siena (DSFUCI of Arezzo) offer 15 scholarships to young scholars – Masters 2, Ph.D. students, post-doc from within the European Community – dealing with the following research themes : apprenticeships, transmissions of knowledge, their connections with labour market and guilds in pre-industrial  Europe. The scholarships will cover expenses for food and accommodation.

This call for applications is also available in French (appel-arezzo-2017) and in Spanish (bando-arezzo-2017).

Over the span of five working days, the X session of the Doctoral Seminar of Arezzo will investigate “Apprenticeships and transmissions of knowledge in Europe (13th-18th centuries)”. Starting from this intentionally broad cover-title, this theme will be investigated in particular structures and attitudes of organisations connected with workers’ training and the transmissions of practical knowledge and know-how within the multiple sectors of European economy (including the areas of artistic production) during the Low Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Matters such as the importance of family and social networks, the role of women in transmitting practical skills and, more generally, the multiple links between apprenticeship, talent and artistic creation will also be investigated.

Continue reading “Call for applications: Postgraduate Workshop on Apprenticeship and Transmission of Knowledge”

Women’s Work in Rural England, 1500-1700

It has become increasingly clear that the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries represented a period of dramatic economic and social change in England. Indeed, the latest research from CamPop’s ‘Occupational Structure of Britain, 1379–1911’ project suggests that the most significant developments in English economic history may have occurred in these earlier centuries, and not in the period classically associated with the Industrial Revolution (c.1760-1840). Moreover, there is a growing sense that economic changes in the early modern period may have had much to do with changes in the working lives of women: Jan de Vries famously hypothesised that the century between 1650-1750 witnessed an ‘Industrious Revolution’ in which workers came to dedicate fewer hours to leisure and more hours to working, or especially in the case of women, came to direct their time not only towards domestic and subsistence work, but increasingly towards the production of goods to sell commercially.

Yet for all the emphasis on the extent of these changes, we still have remarkably little empirical evidence about the everyday working lives of early modern women. Part of the problem is that much of the ground-breaking research into the economic changes of the period focuses on the prevalence of different occupational groups at different times. As both Tawny Paul and Jonas Lindström have pointed out on this blog before, there are some important limitations to this approach. One is that women are rarely given an occupational title in the archival records from our period – they tend to be described by their marital status – and another is that occupational labels often obscure the fact that a man who is known as a ‘carpenter’, for instance, may actually be engaged in a wide range of work activities, such as farming or retailing ale, that are not captured by that title.

Our project, ‘Women’s Work in Rural England, 1500-1700’, sets out to address some of these shortcomings in our understanding of women’s work. Continue reading “Women’s Work in Rural England, 1500-1700”

Learning to Look: Built Environments as Sources of Insight on Women’s Work

Historic American Buildings Survey Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer Aug. 5, 1935,Huntington House, State Route 47, Hadley, Hampshire County, MA
Historic American Buildings Survey Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer Aug. 5, 1935,Huntington House, State Route 47, Hadley, Hampshire County, MA

An Irish immigrant passes along the plastered stone walls and tiny windows of her New York employer’s basement kitchen and ascends the stairs. One flight takes her to the family’s main living spaces and another to the halls outside their bedrooms before she opens the door to the winding, steep and narrow set of tower stairs that offer the only access to the attic, and the three adjoining servants’ rooms there.  A row of pegs on the plaster walls suggest that no chests of drawers sit on the room’s pine floors, but her modest wardrobe would scarcely require one. She reaches toward a shelf mounted high on the wall and lights a candle, the only flame in this hearthless room.  Soot drifts across the whitewash.

Today, domestic servants like this woman often languish in what curator Patricia West has called “documentary obscurity.”[1]  The Irish women who once labored in and around Lindenwald–the Kinderhook, New York, home of retired U.S. President Martin Van Buren [1782-1862]–rarely appear in the archival record apart from the occasional passing reference in family correspondence, census records and other fragmentary mentions.  The carbon shadow still visible on the wall today is among the few physical traces that remain of these women’s lives on Van Buren’s estate.     Continue reading “Learning to Look: Built Environments as Sources of Insight on Women’s Work”

Taxing History: Space, Place, and Gender in Early Modern Edinburgh

The issues of ‘space’ and ‘place’ have been sources of increasing interest for historians in recent years. Concerns relating not only to where people lived and worked, but what those locations can communicate about the nature, sociability, and respectability of lives and occupations have inspired exciting new research questions that help us to understand not only where people lived, but how they lived. Of course, one of the main drawbacks of this avenue of enquiry, particularly for medieval and early modern historians, is the paucity of sources. Information regarding location can sometimes be pieced together, but discrete sources that clearly communicate locations are few and far between.

One of these rare sources that provide a wealth of information regarding the layout of an early modern town is the 1635 Housemaills Tax for Edinburgh, Scotland. Continue reading “Taxing History: Space, Place, and Gender in Early Modern Edinburgh”