International refereed journals
This article analyses the resilience of domestic textile production in Java and sub-Saharan Africa to uncover how local industries coped with the effects of broader global and colonial forces in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. We demonstrate that many domestic handicraft manufacturers managed to survive due to specific competitive advantages. Strategies of product differentiation, responsiveness to shifting consumer needs, and flexibility in manufacturing methods enabled local producers to remain competitive in confrontation with mounting imports from early factories, typically constituting cheap, but lower quality and less unique products. Some local manufacturers could even compete based on price given the very low labour costs associated with seasonally-oriented handicraft production, which raises questions about the extent of the comparative advantage enjoyed by early-industrializing nations in the Global North. The capacity of domestic textile producers to remain competitive amid colonial policies aimed at capturing local markets – and raw cotton sources – highlights not only the importance of product differentiation and the specificity of local demand, but also the agency exercised by both producers and consumers under colonial rule.
This article explores the reasons behind the marked differences in the gender division of labour in the emerging textile factories in Japan and India in the first half of the twentieth century. In Japan, the overwhelming majority of the workers in spinning mills were young, unmarried women, while in India men—married as well as unmarried—formed the bulk of the factory textile workforce. We argue that variations in agrarian systems and labour regimes constitute an important set of factors explaining some of these differences in gender patterns. The structural differences in the productivity, intensity and the social organisation of labour in agricultural economies in both countries led to notable variances in the gender composition of the supply of (rural) labour for the factories. Differential deployment of rural farm and non-farm labour, in combination with distinct labour recruitment practices in the countryside, caused rural households to adopt radically different income-generating strategies
This article provides an introduction to the two articles in this Special Theme on education, labour, and discipline in colonial Asia. It offers a brief historiography of education to indigenous children in the colonial context provided by non-state as well as state actors. We argue that while many studies have separated the motives behind, and actions of, these different actors in relation to education and “civilizing missions”, it is worthwhile connecting these histories. Moreover, apart from looking at motives, the articles in this Special Theme aim to show the value of studying educational practices in a colonial context. Finally, this introduction identifies several opportunities for future – comparative as well as transnational – studies into the topic of education, child labour, and discipline.
This article aims to bring together three different long-term, global comparative studies on women’s work in three sectors: the textile industry, domestic service and sex work from the seventeenth century to today. Although there were notable differences between developments in these three occupations over time, it is clear that they all represent the ubiquitous precarity that runs through the history of work. Instead of viewing precarious labour as a novel development, history shows that the ILO model of ‘standard employment’ is an exception in history. Both in the Global North and in the Global South, at least half of the world’s historical population – women – often worked in underpaid, poorly organized jobs, under unequal power relations. However, despite these consistent practices of subordination, this article also highlights that within the given constrictions, female labourers who were formally powerless could exert considerable agency, using informal networks and power mechanisms that often emerged from the inherent intimacy of the labour relations they were involved in.
With his latest book, The Making of a Periphery, Ulbe Bosma makes a successful attempt to “decompress history”. Apart from praising his work, I want to offer two critical comments and a suggestion for global comparison. First, I argue that the role of colonialism/imperialism is somewhat downplayed in the book. Second, although I am impressed by the vast body of literature cited, I believe that at several instances the book might have benefited from its arguments being underpinned by
more solid empirical quantitative data. Finally, I raise the question how unique the “plantation economies” of Island South East Asia actually were, which also implies a suggestion for further research along the lines of Bosma’s impressive monograph.
Many dependency theorists as well as economic historians have contended that nineteenth-century imperial policies and economic globalization de-industrialized the global ‘periphery’. European metropoles extracted raw materials and tropical commodities from their overseas territories, and in turn indigenous consumers bought their industrial products, textiles in particular. This article investigates three of the assumptions of Ricardian trade theory that are often behind the de-industrialization narrative. In this article it is argued that, at least for colonial Java’s textile industry, these assumptions should be reconsidered. Adverse trade policies imposed by the Dutch and a prolonged terms-of-trade boom in favour of primary commodities make colonial Java a unique case for exploring the merits of the de-industrialization thesis. Here it is demonstrated that Javanese households resourcefully responded to changing market circumstances, in the first place by flexible allocation of female labour. Moreover, indigenous textile producers specialized in certain niches that catered for local demand. Because of these factors, local textile production in Java appears to have been much more resilient than most of the historical literature suggests. These findings not only shed new light on the social and economic history of colonial Indonesia, but also contribute to the recent literature on alternative, labour-intensive paths of industrialization in the non-western world.
This article argues that global labour history (GLH) and global economic history have much to offer each other. GLH would do well to raise sweeping questions – for instance about the origins of global inequality – engage more with theory, and increasingly use quantitative methods. Instead of seeing labour and labour relations as historical phenomena to be explained, they can serve as important explanatory variables in historical analyses of economic development and divergence. In turn, economic historians have much to gain from the recent insights of global labour historians. GLH offers a more inclusive and variable usage of the concept of labour, abandoning, as it does, the often narrow focus on male wage labour in the analyses of many economic historians. Moreover, GLH helps to overcome thinking in binary categories, such as “free” and “unfree” labour. Ultimately, both fields will benefit from engaging in joint debates and theories, and from collaboration in collecting and analysing “big data”.
In recent years, labor history has taken a “global turn” and the focus has increasingly been on labor relations in the non-Western context. This article aims to challenge existing perceptions of the history of domestic work in Europe from a global labor history perspective, by comparing as well as connecting the histories of domestic workers globally. It addresses continuities and discontinuities in domestic work in relation to the life cycle around the world. As recent as the new international division of labor may seem, within the context of globalization and women’s emancipation, it also builds on much older patterns of migration, colonial relations and gender and ethnic stereotypes.
This article forms the introduction to a special section of the History of the Family following a workshop in December 2014 on Family, demography and labour relations.
This article investigates developments in labour policies and social norms on gender and work from a colonial perspective. It aims to analyse the extent to which state policies and societal norms influenced gendered labour relations in the Netherlands and its colony, the Netherlands Indies (present-day Indonesia). In order to investigate the influence of the state on gender and household labour relations in the Dutch empire, this paper compares as well as connects social interventions related to work and welfare in the Netherlands and the Netherlands Indies from the early nineteenth century up until World War II. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, work was seen as a means to morally discipline the poor, both in the Netherlands and the Netherlands Indies. Parallel initiatives were taken by Johannes van den Bosch, who, in 1815, established “peat colonies” in the Netherlands, aiming to transform the urban poor into industrious agrarian workers, and in 1830 introduced the Cultivation System in the Netherlands Indies, likewise to increase the industriousness of Javanese peasants. While norms were similar, the scope of changing labour relations was much vaster in the colony than in the metropole. During the nineteenth century, ideals and practices of the male breadwinner started to pervade Dutch households, and children’s and women’s labour laws were enacted. Although in practice many Dutch working-class women and children continued to work, their official numbers dropped significantly. In contrast to the metropole, the official number of working (married) women in the colony was very high, and rising over the period. Protection for women and children was introduced very late in the Netherlands Indies and only under intense pressure from the international community. Not only did Dutch politicians consider it “natural” for Indonesian women and children to work, their assumptions regarding inherent differences between Indonesian and Dutch women served to justify the protection of the latter: a fine example of what Ann Stoler and Frederick Cooper have called a “grammar of difference”.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk investigates the extent to which colonial ties between the Netherlands and the Netherlands East-Indies influenced women’s labour patterns in the colony as well as the metropolis. On the one hand, comparisons are made between quantitative and qualitative developments in women’s labour force participation in the Netherlands and the Netherlands Indies in the colonial period. On the other hand, various connections are made between developments in the metropolis and the colony. Not only did Dutch economic and colonial policies, such as the Cultivation System and the exports of Dutch textiles by the Dutch Trading Company (nhm), lead to changes in women’s work in both regions. Moreover, social policy, for instance the Social Question and Ethical Policy, also influenced legislation on and practices of women’s work in colony and metropolis. The underlying rhetorics were generally patronising, containing elements of class, ethnicity and gender to justify intervention (and the differences therein) in both parts of the empire.
Many historians have pointed out for various countries that nineteenth-century national censuses do not accurately reflect women’s economic activity. This was no different for the Dutch national censuses. In this article, we argue that under-recording was especially severe in agriculture, and that this problem increased towards the end of the century. The rise in under-recording was partly due to an increased irregularity of women’s work on farms, but it also reflected changing living standards and ideologies, in which work was increasingly defined as undesirable for women. In relative terms, agriculture did become less important to men and women alike because of mechanization and industrialization. Nevertheless, agriculture continued to employ many women, especially married women and daughters working on their husbands’ and fathers’ farms. By offering additional source material and methods for estimating women’s labour force participation in agriculture on a regional level, such as relating their occupational status to their husbands’, and estimating the number of days worked, we aim to offer an enhanced methodology for gauging the work of women in agriculture, which may be applied to future research.
This chapter explores the complicated marriage between economic history and history of women and gender – disciplines that have not optimally reaped the benefi ts of each other’s results. This overview of developments in women’s and gender history over the past century analyses the relationship and offers suggestions for intensifying it. Although international in outlook, the focus lies on Dutch historiography. Recently, Dutch economic and gender historians have contributed greatly to international debates on economic development since the Middle Ages, especially in Western Europe. In this chapter, it is proposed that studying historical economic development on a global scale from a gender perspective can benefi t both economic and gender history. Although still relatively unexplored territory, many Dutch scholars are increasingly engaging in relevant research questions, hopefully providing the empirical foundations for long-term global socioeconomic histories that are gender sensitive.
In Early Modern north-western Europe a unique form of charitable foundation developed – almshouses. These were inhabited by elderly men and women, who had led honourable middle-class lives, but had become unable to support themselves. In towns that were rapidly growing through immigration, many elderly people were without income or family support. The masses of the working-class poor had to resort to outdoor relief and other survival strategies or were confined in old people’s homes and hospitals. Almshouses, in which residents could maintain their privacy, autonomy and honour, were a viable middle-class alternative. We argue that this type of provision could rise especially in relatively urbanised, monetised north-western Europe. Here, wage labour was the dominant form of income; nuclear families the prevalent family type, and rich citizens had great interests to invest in building religious and urban communities. Around the North Sea, dependent middle-class elderly could entertain early notions of individualism and privacy, which were not catered for by charitable institutions elsewhere.
This article aims to compare the financing of two apparently entirely different systems of pre-industrial welfare: urban institutional welfare in the federal Dutch Republic and the national Elizabethan Poor Law in Britain. By analysing a new dataset on the income and expenditure of five Dutch towns, we conclude that, despite the absence of uniform legislation, Dutch poor relief was viable at least up until the 1790s, even in times of severe crises and declining real wages. This was obtained by the – in monetary terms – remarkably stable donations by Dutch citizens, mostly through regular collections, as well as careful financial management of the charitable funds.
This article delineates new research on the entangled histories of household labour, particularly women’s and children’s work, in the Netherlands and its colonies on Java. It offers suggestions for future empirical studies and how we may disentangle the workings of colonial connections on labour relations. A first analysis of the debates on Dutch and Javanese women’s and children’s work shows many ambivalences and tensions, for instance, between ideology and practice. Despite the ideal of the male breadwinner in the Netherlands, many married women and children still worked in the first half of the twentieth century. Regarding Javanese women and children too, we can discern tensions between the attempts on the one hand to “Westernize” them, and introduce the ideal of domesticity. On the other hand, inherent differences between Dutch and Indonesian women and children were stressed. This “grammar of difference” helped justify why Dutch women and children should not perform (heavy) labour and why their Javanese counterparts could indeed perform it.
This contribution provides methods for estimating developments in women’s labor force participation (LFP) in the Netherlands, for both preindustrial and industrializing eras. It explains long-term developments in Dutch LFP and concludes that the existing image of Dutch women’s historically low participation in the labor market should be reconsidered. Contrary to what many economic historians have supposed, Dutch women’s LFP was not lower, and was perhaps even higher, than elsewhere in the pre-1800 period. As in other Western European countries, the decline of (married) Dutch women’s LFP only started in the nineteenth century, though it then probably declined faster than elsewhere. Thus, this study concludes that the Netherlands did not constitute the “first male-breadwinner economy,” as historians and economists have suggested. Scrutinizing the nineteenth-century data in more detail suggests that a complex of demographic, socioeconomic, and cultural changes resulted in this sharp decline of Dutch women’s crude activity rates.
The essays in this volume aim to explain the evolution and persistence of various practices of indirect labour recruitment. Labour intermediation is understood as a global phenomenon, present for many centuries in most countries of the world, and taking on a wide range of forms: varying from outright trafficking to job placement in the context of national employment policies. By focusing on the actual practices of different types of labour mediators in various regions of the world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and by highlighting both the national as well as the international and translocal contexts of these practices, this volume intends to further a historically informed global perspective on the subject.
This article explores the role of different social groups in early modern Dutch towns in organising and financing poor relief. Examining both the income structure of Dutch urban poor relief organisations and voluntary donations and bequests by citizens reveals what motivations lay behind their involvement, and how and why these changed over time. In the seventeenth century, ‘middle groups’ donated more often and higher mean amounts, reflecting their efforts to contribute to urban community building. In the eighteenth century, the elite became relatively more involved in charitable giving. Also, the urge to give to one’s own religious group seems to have increased in this period.
This article examines the extent to which bureaucratization and professionalization of public services occurred in early modern Dordrecht, a medium-sized town in the Dutch Republic. To this end, general developments in spending on public services are investigated, followed by more in-depth analysis of changes in three different professions of officials: Dordrecht’s city secretaries, city midwives, and gatekeepers. Three possible explanations for the bureaucratization and professionalization of public services in Dordrecht are investigated: economic and demographic developments, social standing of the offices, and type of service provided. There appears to be a definite, albeit not necessarily linear, relationship between economic and demographic influences and the process of bureaucratization. The extent of professionalization can to a large degree be explained by the variations in social status and in working sphere between the different types of officials providing public services, in which varying degrees of monitoring and regulation were considered desirable.
In the historical debate, the gender wage gap is usually attributed either to productivity differences or to gender discrimination. By analysing a newly constructed series of spinning wages in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, the wages of male and female textile workers for the same work could be investigated. At first sight, the evidence on equal piece rates for spinning men and women seems to rule out wage discrimination. Nevertheless, more deeply rooted gender discrimination resulting from the segmented seventeenth-century labour market restricted women’s access to many professions. Exactly this segmentation determined differences in wage earning capacities between men and women.
This article aims to provide an empirical test of Jan de Vries’ theory of the ‘industrious revolution’, most notably his assumptions concerning the increased participation of married women in the labour force. The focus is on the pre-industrial textile industry in the Dutch Republic, within which a distinction is made between various ways in which family members cooperated in the work they undertook. This differentiation depended on the existing segmentation of the labour market, between social groups and between the sexes. It is shown that at least some groups within proletarian textile families were able to make a decent living, and that the earnings of wives played an important role in the increased industriousness of these families.
Although child labor was a widespread phenomenon in the pre-industrial Dutch economy, we do not know very much about it. This article aims to expand our knowledge by looking at children’s work in several urban industries in the Dutch Republic. By investigating the kind of economic activities children performed, their starting age, working and living conditions and the amount of training they received, we want to typify pre-industrial child labour more specifically. Did children’s work serve as a necessary source of wage income, or rather as a vocational training for their later participation in the labour market? It will appear that this characterization as ‘work’ or ‘training’ depended largely on the child’s age, sex and social background. These distinctions may help further research on the performance of preindustrial economies, in which a demand for flexible labor played a crucial role.
This article analyses women’s work in the Dutch textile industry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries within the framework of dual (or segmented) labour market theory. This theoretical framework is usually applied to the modern labour market, but it is also valuable for historical research. It clarifies, for example, how segmentation in the labour market influenced men’s and women’s work in the textile industry. Applying this analysis, we find that, even in periods without explicit gender conflict, patriarchal and capitalist forces utilized the gender segmentation of the labour market to redefine job status and labour relations in periods of economic change. Although this could harm the economic position of all women and migrants, it appears that single women were affected most by these mechanisms.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, ‘Entangled Histories: Unraveling the Impact of Colonial Connections on both Javanese and Dutch Women’s Work and Household Labour Relations, ca. 1830-1940’, Journal of Gender Studies 20:1 (2017), 35-59.
In this article I investigate changing household labour relations and women’s work in the Dutch empire. I question how colonial connections affected the division of work between men, women, and children, not only in the colony ‐ the Dutch East Indies (i.c. Java), but also in the metropolis ‐ the Netherlands. Entanglements can be found in the influences of colonial economic policies on both colony and metropolis, as well as in the more indirect effects of colonial exploitation and taxation, and, finally in the sphere of sociopolitics and ideologies. I will analyse the entanglements between the Netherlands and Java in these domains, comparing similarities and differences, but also paying attention to the connections and transfers between both parts of the Dutch empire. Although some of the conditions and developments were highly specific to the Dutch empire, I aim to show that the method of comparing and establishing direct and indirect connections between different parts of an empire can lead to new insights that can also be applied to other parts of the world and different time periods.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, ‘Vrouwenarbeid en de organisatie van de textielproductie in de Republiek der Verenigde Nederlanden (ca. 1580-1795)’, Textielhistorische Bijdragen 52 (2012) 90-115.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, "Att klä världen. Textilarbetare och globaliserinng 1650-2000. Erfarenheter och resultat av ett kollektivt forskningsprojekt". Arbetarhistoria 136:4 (2010) 33-46.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, ‘Geven na de dood. Liefdadige giften en stedelijke geefcultuur in Utrecht en Zwolle, 1600-1800’, Stadsgeschiedenis 5:2 (2010) 129-147.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, ‘Creatief met het archief: over het opsporen van economische activiteiten van Leidse vrouwen in de vroegmoderne tijd’, Leids Jaarboekje 102 (2010) 19-40.
Danielle van den Heuvel and Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, 'Huishoudens, werk en consumptieveranderingen in vroegmodern Holland', Holland. Historisch Tijdschrift 42:2 (2010) 102-124.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, 'Werken om te leren? De arbeid van jongens en meisjes in de Leidse textielnijverheid in de zeventiende eeuw', in: Jaarboek der sociale en economische geschiedenis van Leiden en omstreken (2008), 79-103.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, Lex Heerma van Voss en Els Hiemstra, ‘De Nederlandse textielindustrie in een globaliserende wereld, 1650-2000’, Textielhistorische Bijdragen 46 (2006), 11-44.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk en Marlou Schrover, 'Een repliek', in: Jaarboek voor Vrouwengeschiedenis 24 (2004), 220-221.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk and Marlou Schrover, ‘In eigen boezem. De integratie van vrouwengeschiedenis’, Jaarboek voor Vrouwengeschiedenis 23 (2003), 222-233.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, ‘Het beeld bezien: de spinster op de vroegmoderne arbeidsmarkt’, Historica (juni 2003), 19-21.