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The Wages of Women in England, 1260–1850

  • Jane Humphries (a1) and Jacob Weisdorf (a2)
Abstract

This paper presents two wage-series for unskilled English women workers 1260–1850, one based on daily wages and one on the daily remuneration implied in annual contracts. The series are compared with each other and with evidence for men, informing several debates. Our findings suggest first that women servants did not share the post-Black Death “golden age” and so offer little support for a “girl-powered” economic breakthrough; and second that during the industrial revolution, women who were unable to work long hours lost ground relative to men and to women who could work full-time and fell increasingly adrift from any “High Wage Economy.”

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We thank Bob Allen, Steve Broadberry, Nick Crafts, Bernard Harris, John Hatcher, Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, Deb Oxley, Eric Schneider, Kevin O'Rourke, Peter Solar, Rui Esteves, two anonymous referees and the editor of This Journal Ann Carlos, as well as the conference and seminar participants at the First CEPR Economic History Symposium, the 16th World Economic History Congress, the 10th Swedish Economic History Meeting, the 10th European Social Science History Conference, the Economic History Society Annual Conference 2014, the 9th Sound Economic History Workshop, the University of Barcelona, the University of Gothenburg, the University of Gronningen, the University of Kent, the University of Oxford, the University Paris Dauphine, the University of Sheffield, the University of Sussex, the University Tor Vergata, the University of Valencia, the University of Verona, the University of Wageningen, and the University of Utrecht for their helpful comments and suggestions. We are grateful to Joyce Burnette, Jacob Field, Roderick Floud, Bronac Holden, Jane Whittle, James Willoughby, and Jan Luiten van Zanden for sharing their data and suggesting possible sources, to Sören Schou for his excellent assistance at an early stage of the research (financed by the University of Southern Denmark), and Mimi Goodall and Emily Fermor for more recent research assistance (financed by the Thames Valley Country House Partnership Project at the University of Oxford and the Sanderson Fund at the Faculty of History). The authors wish to thank his Grace, the late Duke of Marlborough for permission to access the archival materials, which remain at Blenheim Palace and the Blenheim archivist, John Foster, for his help and guidance. We are also grateful to archivists at several local record offices including Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire, Warwickshire, and Oxfordshire. Jacob Weisdorf has benefitted from funding made available by the ERC “United we stand” (grant no. 240928) courtesy of Tine de Moor.

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