Work, Wages and Income : Remuneration and Labor Patterrns in Sweden 1500-1850

Abstract: Since the earliest economic historical studies wage series have been used to sketch economic development both at the macro and the household level. This dissertation takes advantage of new data from women and men, working in both the countryside and in towns, as well as employed both by the day and on long-term contracts, in order to make an in-depth quantitative look at the relationships between different kinds of work and how they were compensated within an extended labor market. The use of Swedish data situates these studies in a rural and pre-industrialized economy – a context broadly representative of much of Central and Eastern Europe. The time period, 1500-1850, covers the centuries between the end of the middle ages and the emergence of a truly modern economy. It is during this critical period that the differences between the economies of modern day Europe, as well as the rest of the world, began to take shape. The central questions are what does a wage represent? and how does a wage turn into income? The results both expand our understanding of Sweden and Scandinavia’s historical labor markets and challenge assumptions in economic history. At the same time, it contributes substantial new sets of data for different kinds of workers from early modern Southern Sweden. Together, these papers explore and quantify a complex and changing labor market, while still keeping the earners and those who depend on these earnings in sight. The results show a labor market in which women were integrated into manual labor and could earn wages equal to men’s, and women and men probably worked only as much as they needed to in order to meet their annual needs. However, this became more difficult for all groups into the eighteenth and nineteenth century as urban growth and increasing landlessness made making a living progressively more difficult. Several of these results continue to push against standards economic historical approaches, including our understandings of women’s labor and working patterns of laborers in the distant past. Through this, this dissertation demonstrates how much we have taken for granted about the early modern people and workers and how much we still have to learn. Thankfully, the extensive new data sets, drawn from over 50,000 primary archival wage observations, promise many future studies as extensions of this initial work.