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Men at work: Real wages from annual and casual labour in southern Sweden 1500–1850


  • Gary, Kathryn E.

    () (Department of Economic History, Lund University)

  • Olsson, Mats

    () (Department of Economic History, Lund University)


In this paper, we use a brand new dataset to estimate and compare wages for casually and annually hired workers in early modern southern Sweden. We ask whether men in either situation could have supported families on the basis of their earnings. Findings indicate that casual earners would have been able to out-earn annual employees for most of the period 1500–1850, but by the eighteenth century when food prices had risen their relative comfort likely reversed. Similarly, while it was possible for long periods of time for men to earn a respectability basket on the basis of approximately 150 days work this was no longer true by the end of the eighteenth century. By that time, both groups would have increasingly struggled and other family members needed to contribute. Not only is this account inconsistent with the standard story of a nineteenth century male breadwinner family but it suggests that industriousness might not have been prompted by a desire to consume new commodities but by the need to maintain basic standards.

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  • Gary, Kathryn E. & Olsson, Mats, 2019. "Men at work: Real wages from annual and casual labour in southern Sweden 1500–1850," Lund Papers in Economic History 194, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:luekhi:0194

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. de Vries, Jan, 1994. "The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(2), pages 249-270, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mario García-Zúñiga, 2020. "Builders’ Working Time in Eighteenth Century Madrid," Working Papers 0195, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    2. Gary, Kathryn, 2019. "The distinct seasonality of early modern casual labor and the short durations of individual working years: Sweden 1500-1800," Lund Papers in Economic History 189, Lund University, Department of Economic History.

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    More about this item


    wages; casual labour; annually hired; Early Modern; Sweden;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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