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Maintaining oneself in early modern England

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This paper explores the responses provided by witnesses in the English church courts to questions about how they maintained themselves or got a living, drawing on a dataset of over 13,500 statements recorded between 1550 and 1728. The discussion reflects on the evidence of women’s productive activity and on the discrepancies between male socio/occupational titles and what they actually did for a living, in order to argue that there was rather more gender convergence in the working lives of men and women than is conventionally acknowledged either by economic historians or by historians of women. The paper also argues that a gradual shift of emphasis from having to getting a living began to reshape concepts of work for both men and women from the later seventeenth century.

This talk is part of the Early Modern Economic and Social History Seminars series.

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