Projects | Professor Jane Whittle

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Professor Jane Whittle will be discussing her project, ‘FORMSofLABOUR: Gender, Freedom and Experience of Work in the Preindustrial Economy'

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The history of labour and its role in Europe’s preindustrial development has very largely been the history of adult men. FORMSofLABOUR seeks to put other workers in the picture, particularly women and servants, not simply by ‘adding them on’ but by showing how a full understanding of women’s work and of service offers a radical critique of existing approaches to work and to the idea of free labour. It focuses on England in the period 1300-1700 viewed in a comparative Western European perspective, and addressed these issues through three themes.

The three themes are (a) a book on ‘The Experience of Work in Early Modern England’ based on a database of work tasks collected from early modern court documents; (b) a book on ‘Rethinking Women’s Work’ structured around the main debates about gendered patterns of work, past and present; (c) an edited volume and series of articles about freedom and forms of labour, questioning the traditional narrative of a free labour market after the end of serfdom. Professor Whittle collaborates with Dr Mark Hailwood of Bristol University on theme (a), and is working with a team of postgraduate researchers: Dr Taylor Aucoin, Dr Hannah Robb, and Dr James Fisher.

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