Stiftelsen för forskning inom områden med anknytning till Östersjöregionen och Östeuropa

The benevolent patriarch? How crises reveal early modern households’ labour organisation and the reach of patriarchal care across the Baltic Sea, 1723–1809

Ämne: Economic History, Labour History, Gender History
Projektledare: Carolina Uppenberg
Startår: 2024
Projekttyp: Projekt
Beviljade medel: 3 574 000 kr

This project aims to investigate how male and female servants were cared for by their masters in times of hardship and how this differed across the Baltic Sea during the early modern period. Our understanding of the gendered hierarchy of early modern households, of the labour market and of the demographic patterns all build on an assumption of reciprocity between servant and master and of the possibility of developing the basis for future independence for the servant during his or her youth. While the laws and ideals were clear – a master had the responsibility to take care of the servant – there is no study that investigates whether servants were in fact taken care of by their masters in times of hardship: i.e., whether the servant institution actually provided the protection it was assumed to. The project will be conducted through analyses of court cases regarding conflicts over employment, eviction, run-away servants and care for servants who were ill or hurt, taking place before, during and after short-term local crises, such as harvest failures. In the project, crises function methodologically to locate court cases, and, theoretically, since times of hardship are periods when conflicts regarding the care of servants are likely to increase, the relationships in the households are negotiated, and the position of servants might thus be challenged. Thus, this project will contribute to our understanding of the reach of patriarchal care in early modern households.