Abstract

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”.

Abstract

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.