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The Wages of Women in England, 1260-1850

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  • Jane Humphries
  • Jacob Weisdorf

Abstract

This paper presents a wage series for unskilled English women workers from 1260 to 1850 and compares it with existing evidence for men. Our series cast light on long run trends in women's agency and wellbeing, revealing an intractable, indeed widening gap between women and men's remuneration in the centuries following the Black Death. This informs several debates: first whether or not "the golden age of the English peasantry" included women; and second whether or not industrialization provided women with greater opportunities. Our contributions to both debates have implications for analyses of growth and trends in wellbeing. If the rise in wages that followed the Black Death enticed female servants to delay marriage, it contributed to the formation of the European Marriage Pattern, a demographic regime which positioned England on a path to modern economic growth. If the industrial revolution provided women with improved economic options, their gains should be included in any overall assessment of trends in the standard of living distorts the overall evaluation of the gains from industrialization.

Suggested Citation

  • Jane Humphries & Jacob Weisdorf, 2014. "The Wages of Women in England, 1260-1850," Economics Series Working Papers Number 127, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:number-127
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    File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/13260/jhreplacement.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gregory Clark, 2005. "The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1209-2004," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1307-1340, December.
    2. Ronald Findlay & Kevin H. O'Rourke, 2007. "Power and Plenty: Trade, War and the World Economy in the Second Millennium (Preface)," Trinity Economics Papers tep0107, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
    3. Clark, Gregory & Jacks, David, 2007. "Coal and the Industrial Revolution, 1700 1869," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(01), pages 39-72, April.
    4. Harley, C. Knick & Crafts, N.F.R., 2000. "Simulating the Two Views of the British Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(03), pages 819-841, September.
    5. Mokyr, Joel, 1977. "Demand vs. Supply in the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 37(04), pages 981-1008, December.
    6. Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521868273, November.
    7. Ronald Findlay & Kevin H. O'Rourke, 2007. "Introduction to Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium," Introductory Chapters,in: Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium Princeton University Press.
    8. Ronald Findlay & Kevin H. O'Rourke, 2007. "Preface to Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium," Introductory Chapters,in: Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium Princeton University Press.
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    Cited by:

    1. Doepke, M. & Tertilt, M., 2016. "Families in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    2. Giulia Mancini, 2017. "Women’s labor force participation in Italy, 1861-2016," HHB Working Papers Series 8, The Historical Household Budgets Project.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Black Death; England; gender wage gap; industrial revolution; gender segregation; wages; women;

    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J4 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets
    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination
    • J8 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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