Proposal preview

The formation of the wage in an early modern global context

Scholarship on wage earning in England and NW Europe in the early modern period has been begun to move away from deriving the real wage from ‘day wages’ for the construction industry. The day wage methodology for Asia has been challenged. This session (full morning, two sessions of 90 minutes) will exploit new quantitative and qualitative research strategies to explore how piece rates, day rates, annual remunerations, and other forms of bargain were formed around labour exchange costs in the early modern world. The organizers will seek and choose case studies or theoretical perspectives, from a global field which explore how time, pay and output were related and structured, in monetary, commodity, legal, cultural or other terms to give a new perspective on early modern labour markets.

Organizer(s)

  • Judy Z Stephenson Oxford judy.stephenson@wadh.ox.ac.uk UK
  • Jacob Weisdorf SDU jacobw@sam.sdu.dk Denmark

Session members

  • Kathryn Gary, Lund
  • Luca Mocarelli , Bucconi
  • D'Maris Coffman, UCL
  • Ben Schneider , Oxford
  • Ernesto Lopez , EHU
  • Susannah Ottoway, Carleton
  • Judy Stephenson, Oxford
  • Jacob Wesidorf, SD
  • Meng Zhang, LMU

Discussant(s)

  • Patrick H Wallis LSE p.h.wallis@lse.ac.uk

Papers

Panel abstract

Scholarship on wage earning in the early modern period has been begun to move away from deriving the real wage from ‘day wages’ for the construction industry. This session (full morning, two sessions of 90 minutes) will exploit new quantitative and qualitative research strategies to explore the nominal wage and how all forms of bargaining; piece rates, day rates, annual remunerations, and other contracts were formed around labour exchange costs in the early modern world. The sessions and papers from a global field explore how time, payments and output were related and structured, in monetary, commodity, legal, cultural or other terms to give a new perspective on early modern labour and product markets.

1st half

Day work, piece-work, contracts and income in early modern London

Judy Z. Stephenson

This paper examines the relationship between wage formation and income for a number of early modern London workers. It shows how different wage and work bargains were constructed for employer or worker advantage and how the ensuing employment relation interacted with seasonality, variation in supply and demand, and technology. The cases explored are from 1700-1720, and 1780 – 1800 and highlight new perspectives on changes in labour relations and living standards in the eighteenth century.

This paper examines the relationship between wage formation and income for a number of early modern London workers. It shows how different wage and work bargains were constructed for employer or worker advantage and how the ensuing employment relation interacted with seasonality, variation in supply and demand, and technology. The cases explored are from 1700-1720, and 1780 – 1800 and highlight new perspectives on changes in labour relations and living standards in the eighteenth century.

The distinct seasonality of early modern casual labor and the short durations of individual working years in Sweden 1500 to 1800

Kathryn E. Gary

This paper is the first of its kind. It uses data from nearly 28,000 daily payments in the construction industry in Southern Sweden to reconstruct the seasonal availability of construction work as well as individuals’ working patterns over the course of more than three centuries. It is to my knowledge the first paper which is able to make this kind of estimate based on direct wage and payment data over so long a period. This is combined with other data which represent the availability of other types of waged labor, such as harvest employment to represent agricultural seasonality and shipping schedules to measure demand of dock or other casual urban labor. Findings indicate that labor was highly seasonal, and would not permit most workers to work in the casual paid sector for 250 days, the number of workdays assumed in traditional estimates.

This paper is the first of its kind. It uses data from nearly 28,000 daily payments in the construction industry in Southern Sweden to reconstruct the seasonal availability of construction work as well as individuals’ working patterns over the course of more than three centuries. It is to my knowledge the first paper which is able to make this kind of estimate based on direct wage and payment data over so long a period. This is combined with other data which represent the availability of other types of waged labor, such as harvest employment to represent agricultural seasonality and shipping schedules to measure demand of dock or other casual urban labor. Findings indicate that labor was highly seasonal, and would not permit most workers to work in the casual paid sector for 250 days, the number of workdays assumed in traditional estimates.

Wages and Salaries in the London Excise Office Staffing the Sinews of Power

D'Maris Coffman

Road Building Wages and Labor Market Integration in England, 1750 1800

Ben Schneider

This paper uses evidence from the account books of parish highways and turnpike trusts to test two aspects of the wage structure of England in the second half of the 18th century. First, it presents the daily earnings of workers building and maintaining roads in predominantly rural parishes and compares them to men's wages in urban construction (Allen 2009, Stephenson 2018), agricultural labor (Clark 2007), and on annual contracts (Humphries & Weisdorf 2016). Second, the paper explores the level and trend of intra- and inter-county variation in pay for road work to determine the local and regional integration of the English labor market during the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

This paper uses evidence from the account books of parish highways and turnpike trusts to test two aspects of the wage structure of England in the second half of the 18th century. First, it presents the daily earnings of workers building and maintaining roads in predominantly rural parishes and compares them to men's wages in urban construction (Allen 2009, Stephenson 2018), agricultural labor (Clark 2007), and on annual contracts (Humphries & Weisdorf 2016). Second, the paper explores the level and trend of intra- and inter-county variation in pay for road work to determine the local and regional integration of the English labor market during the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Workers' Income in Early Modern China- The Case of Planters in Reforestation

Meng Zhang

This study focuses on planters' compensation in the market-oriented reforestation industry in southwest China, 1700-1900. Instead of a day-rate or piece-rate system, the labor contracts in this industry granted the planters a share of the future income to be made from the trees, which would be cut for sale in thirty to forty years. Such planters' shares could be transferred freely as even more finely divided portions, fostering the formation of a primitive securities market, in which such shares became futures-like financial instruments. The widespread adoption of this form of labor compensation in the forestry industry thwarts any attempts at deriving “real wages” and challenges us to appreciate the multitude forms of arrangement to compensate labor input in the early modern world and how they corresponded to the nature of the work, accessibility to liquidity, risk management, and other social and cultural factors.

This study focuses on planters' compensation in the market-oriented reforestation industry in southwest China, 1700-1900. Instead of a day-rate or piece-rate system, the labor contracts in this industry granted the planters a share of the future income to be made from the trees, which would be cut for sale in thirty to forty years. Such planters' shares could be transferred freely as even more finely divided portions, fostering the formation of a primitive securities market, in which such shares became futures-like financial instruments. The widespread adoption of this form of labor compensation in the forestry industry thwarts any attempts at deriving “real wages” and challenges us to appreciate the multitude forms of arrangement to compensate labor input in the early modern world and how they corresponded to the nature of the work, accessibility to liquidity, risk management, and other social and cultural factors.

2nd half

Great Divergence of Great Convergence The Real Wages of Roman Building Workers in a European Perspective

Mauro Rota (Rome “La Sapienza”) and Jacob Weisdorf (SDU, CAGE, and CEPR)

We compare newly-collected wages from the construction of the Saint Peter’s Church in Rome to Judy Stephenson’s profit-adjusted wages of unskilled construction workers in London. We find that 17th-century Roman workers were significantly better paid, in real terms, than their London counterparts. We also observe a convergence in real earnings during the 18th century.

We compare newly-collected wages from the construction of the Saint Peter’s Church in Rome to Judy Stephenson’s profit-adjusted wages of unskilled construction workers in London. We find that 17th-century Roman workers were significantly better paid, in real terms, than their London counterparts. We also observe a convergence in real earnings during the 18th century.

Carrots or Sticks? Incentivizing Work in Institutions for the Poor in the Long Eighteenth Century

Susannah Ottoway, Carleton College

Focusing on the Houses of Industry erected in East Anglia in the last half of the eighteenth century, the paper uncovers the range and effects of the payments and other incentives that motivated pauper inmates to produce significant amounts of textiles for market. The second half of the paper focuses on the particular case of workhouse children, using case studies of child inmates to interrogate the importance of workhouses as inculcators of habits of industry, and as brokers in the system of parish apprenticeship.

Focusing on the Houses of Industry erected in East Anglia in the last half of the eighteenth century, the paper uncovers the range and effects of the payments and other incentives that motivated pauper inmates to produce significant amounts of textiles for market. The second half of the paper focuses on the particular case of workhouse children, using case studies of child inmates to interrogate the importance of workhouses as inculcators of habits of industry, and as brokers in the system of parish apprenticeship.

Building workers in Madrid 1737-1805 New wage series and some methodological issues

MARIO GARCÍA-ZÚÑIGA and ERNESTO LÓPEZ LOSA University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)

This paper provides new series of building wages for 18th-century Madrid. At international level, the common Spanish reference for the period are the wage series that Earl Hamilton elaborated using the ledgers of the construction of the Royal Palace of Madrid. However, he did not fully exploit the rich information they provide about wage rates, skills and the participation of labour in the building site. Against the simplicity of the labour categories in Hamilton’s series, our results show the existence of a complex world of skills and, consequently, of wage rates that only come to the surface when we reconstruct the working lives of the thousands of workers that participated in the works of the new Palace. The new data presented in this paper provide some new insights on the functioning of labour markets and on the complexity of wage (and even human capital) formation in preindustrial Madrid.

This paper provides new series of building wages for 18th-century Madrid. At international level, the common Spanish reference for the period are the wage series that Earl Hamilton elaborated using the ledgers of the construction of the Royal Palace of Madrid. However, he did not fully exploit the rich information they provide about wage rates, skills and the participation of labour in the building site. Against the simplicity of the labour categories in Hamilton’s series, our results show the existence of a complex world of skills and, consequently, of wage rates that only come to the surface when we reconstruct the working lives of the thousands of workers that participated in the works of the new Palace. The new data presented in this paper provide some new insights on the functioning of labour markets and on the complexity of wage (and even human capital) formation in preindustrial Madrid.

The formation of wages in Early Modern Northern Italy

Luca Mocarelli (University of Milano-Bicocca) Giulio Ongaro (University of Milano-Bicocca)

The aim of the paper is to propose some considerations in order to go beyond the traditional approach in the analysis of wages (i.e. the elaboration of long-term series). We will show, through the analysis of case studies, that both in the cities and in the countryside wages were quite complex elements. First, it is not possible to speak about fixed wages (or well defined for specific categories of workers); every payment was the result of personal negotiations, linked to the ability of the worker, to his/her age, to the duration of the working day or to the type of work required. More, when the wage was established, it could change because of advance payments, deductions, donations. Finally, we will show that monetary wages were often only a part of a payment also in kinds, both in the cities and in the countryside.

The aim of the paper is to propose some considerations in order to go beyond the traditional approach in the analysis of wages (i.e. the elaboration of long-term series). We will show, through the analysis of case studies, that both in the cities and in the countryside wages were quite complex elements. First, it is not possible to speak about fixed wages (or well defined for specific categories of workers); every payment was the result of personal negotiations, linked to the ability of the worker, to his/her age, to the duration of the working day or to the type of work required. More, when the wage was established, it could change because of advance payments, deductions, donations. Finally, we will show that monetary wages were often only a part of a payment also in kinds, both in the cities and in the countryside.