Segmentation in the pre-industrial labour market: women’s work in the Dutch textile industry, 1581-1810


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.


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