Producing Change: Gender and Work in Early Modern Europe

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   Invisible Hands: Reassessing the History of Work

University of Glasgow, 16-18 May 2018


It is becoming increasingly clear that attending to the relationship between gender and work demands a fundamental reassessment of the very nature of economic performance, rather than the simple addition of women to existing accounts of economic continuity and change. This conference is designed to foster interdisciplinary and comparative discussion of the insights that gender analysis and feminist economics can bring to the history of work, and the relationship of gendered divisions of labour to economic performance more generally.

The conference will be hosted by the Centre for Gender History at the University of Glasgow, and marks the culmination of the activities of an International Network funded by the Leverhulme Trust on ‘Producing Change: Gender and Work in Early Modern Europe’. Bringing together Partners from the Universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, Leiden, Rouen, Uppsala and the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, the Network has been designed to seize a timely opporunity to foster collaborative and comparative research on the multi-lateral character of both women and men's work; to reconceptualise economic activity; and to reassess the dynamics of economic change. 

The conference aims to bring together scholars from across disciplines to discuss the conceptual foundations for the study of gender and work (broadly and inclusively defined); to establish methodological guidelines for the assessment work in relation to measures of economic performance; and to re-evaluate the meta-narratives that historians have used to approach economic change over time, not least in relation to a preoccupation with growth as the measure of development.

The conference will feature plenary lectures from Prof. Jane Humphries (University of Oxford) and Prof. Merry Wiesner-Hanks (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).

A first round of proposals has now been accepted, and additional proposals are welcome that combine the fields of early modern gender history and economic history, and in particular that relate to parts of the world beyond Western Europe.

Themes may include, but are not limited to:  

  • Defining work and economic activity

  • Methodologies for measuring economic activity and change over time

  • Conceptual foundations for assessing economic performance

  • Gendered divisions of labour

  • Links between work, social inequality and gender inequality

  • Migration, movement, space and mobility

  • Time-use, labour force participation

  • Unpaid work

  • Reproductive labour and care

  • Labour relations, management structures

  • Coerced labour and systems of oppression/exploitation

  • State formation and public policy

  • Relationships between work and political and legal rights

Proposals for individual papers or for panels (normally comprising three papers of 15-20 mins) should be submitted to Dr Catriona MacLeod [] by 1st September 2017. Paper abstracts should be 500-800 words and accompanied by a short CV (no more than 1 page) for each author.


Matthijs Naiveu, Goudbrocaatwinkel, 1709 [Public domain], via Museum De Lakenhal

Detail from Matthijs Naiveu, Goudbrocaatwinkel, 1709 [Public domain], via Museum De Lakenhal