Volume 56 Special Issue 19 (2011)
Marcel van der Linden. Studying Attitudes to Work Worldwide, 1500–1650: Concepts, Sources, and Problems of Interpretation
The period 1500–1650 was characterized by huge global transformations. These had a major impact on a wide range of societal forms and cultures. As a result, different work ethics clashed and formed hybrid combinations, and new work ethics came into being during many-sided confrontations. The question of how the labouring poor in different parts of the world experienced these changes in the context of their work is an extremely difficult one. The present essay attempts to define a number of key concepts ("work", "attitude"); it evaluates critically the various sources which might give us an insight into attitudes to work; and it reflects on interpretative difficulties. The essay concludes by presenting a few substantive hypotheses.
Ariadne Schmidt. Labour Ideologies and Women in the Northern Netherlands, c.1500–1800.
The ideology of domesticity that identified women with a domestic role became more articulated in north-western Europe throughout the early modern period. At the same time, perceptions of work changed and a new appraisal of labour emerged. These seemingly contradictory tendencies prompt the question how women fitted in with the ideology of work. This article discusses common notions of the economic role of women as they emerged from the debates on women, gender relations, and work; how these notions were translated into practical advice in conduct literature; and with what norms women were confronted in everyday life. It appears that work was valued positively for both women and men. Women's involvement in remunerated work was not considered problematic. There was a dividing line, however, and that was drawn between work within the home, which was deemed women's work, and work outside the home, which was deemed men's work. In practice, a differentiation was made between social groups; women who lacked income from capital were supposed to earn their living from work.
Henk Looijesteijn. Between Sin and Salvation: The Seventeenth-Century Dutch Artisan Pieter Plockhoy and His Ethics of Work.
There have been few attempts systematically to study the ethics of work in the early modern age on the basis of contemporary sources. Such a study should start with case studies of individual thinkers, as stepping stones to a more comprehensive study of the ethics of work. This article provides such a case study, of the seventeenth-century Dutch artisan Pieter Plockhoy (c.1620–1664). As will be shown, work was a central component of Plockhoy's philosophy of true, practical Christianity, and on the basis of his tracts a more or less coherent ethics of work can be reconstructed. Although this article concentrates on Plockhoy's philosophy of labour, his thought fits into a broader context of related contemporary thinkers, many of whom shared his concerns. Thus the article shows that for scholars wishing to study the ethics of work there is still a whole field which, though yielding a potentially rich harvest, lies fallow.
Luca Mocarelli. Attitudes to Work and Commerce in the Late Italian Renaissance: A Comparison between Tomaso Garzoni's La Piazza Universale and Leonardo Fioravanti's Dello Specchio Di Scientia Universale.
This article compares two highly successful treatises written in the second half of the fifteenth century: Tomaso Garzoni's La piazza universale di tutte le professioni del mondo [The Universal Workplace of All the Professions in the World], and Leonardo Fioravanti's Dello specchio di scientia universale [On the Mirror of Universal Knowledge]. It examines how each of these books presented and considered commercial activities such as the manufacture and trading of silk and wool – which were of great importance to the Italian economy of the day – and other more humble occupations. This is an interesting comparison since Garzoni and Fioravanti personified two very different spirits of the Renaissance. The former was a learned man, anxious to construct a moralistic-literary monument, complete in every detail, while the latter was a great observer, intent on making full use of every kind of knowledge, even that which seemed lowly and contemptible.
Andrea Caracausi. The Just Wage in Early Modern Italy: A Reflection on Zacchia's De Salario seu Operariorum Mercede.
This article aims to understand norms and values pertaining to the definition of just wages in early modern Italy. The starting point is the treatise by the jurist Lanfranco Zacchia, De Salario seu Operariorum Mercede, which appeared in the mid-seventeenth century and represented the first attempt to collate a set of rules on wages based on the traditions of Roman and canon law. After a brief presentation of the treatise, I shall analyse the meanings and concepts of wages, and then consider the elements that determined the just wage. To understand how prescriptions were seen by individuals, I shall also compare them with information about court cases and rulings compiled by Zacchia in another book, the Centuria decisionum ad materiam Tractatus de Salario, and with the rest of the existing literature. Evidence from my comparison will allow us to understand the interaction and reciprocal influences between juridical thought and daily work practice, and underline the fact that wages were based on a complex system of norms and values where individuals, their social positions, skills, and experience determined the recognition of the just wage with reference to the local context.
Arkadiy E. Tarasov. The Religious Aspect of Labour Ethics in Medieval and Early Modern Russia.
This article analyses the basic feature that defined Russian labour ethics in medieval and early modern times – its religious aspect. There are two main elements to the subject. First, the role of Eastern Christianity and Church tradition in labour regulations, and second, the realities of everyday life in Russia and the historical peculiarities of the Russian locale, its natural conditions and climatic features, which had an influence on working activity. Until the time of Peter the Great, the labour ethics of the Russian Orthodox Church saw no significant change, and their main content could be defined as an educational process.
Karin Hofmeester. Jewish Ethics and Women's Work in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Arab-Islamic World.
In this article, Moses Maimonides’ interpretation of Jewish law on women and work – as reflected in his Mishneh Torah – is contrasted with the daily lives of Jewish working women as portrayed in the documents of the Cairo Geniza. Later rabbinic writings and European travel accounts are analysed to show how Jewish ethics of women and work were translated into social practice in the late medieval and early modern Arab-Islamic world, where Islamic law and the existence of separate worlds for men and women rather than the contrast between public and private spheres seem to have informed general ideas about women and work.
Christine Moll-Murata. Work Ethics and Work Valuations in a Period of Commercialization: Ming China, 1500–1644.
In global terms, Ming China was one of the largest of the economies and political entities that saw increasing integration. Between 1500 and 1650 it experienced a phase of commercialization that influenced perceptions and valuations of work in various ways. Taking a multi-layered approach, this study explores Confucian tenets that made a distinction between mental and physical work, and between four main occupational groups. It discusses earlier Buddhist perspectives on work which were still valid during the Ming period. Further, the legal regulations concerning work in the Ming penal code and the valuations of work and particular occupations in a contemporary literary source, a carpenter's handbook, and an agricultural guide are probed for direct and indirect evidence of the commodification of work in cities and in the countryside, and of gendered division of labour. A consideration of the usefulness of work songs for studying the self-expression of workers concludes the essay.
Harriet T. Zurndorfer. Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Confucian Moral Universe of Late Ming China (1550–1644).
This study pursues three goals: to unravel the socio-economic conditions which pushed women into prostitution and courtesanship, to analyse their position in Chinese society, and to relate what changes occurred at the end of the Ming dynasty that affected their status. According to contemporary judicial regulations, both prostitutes and courtesans were classified as "entertainers", and therefore had the status of jianmin [mean people], which made them "outcasts" and pariahs. But there were great differences, beyond the bestowal of sexual favours, in the kind of work these women performed. That courtesans operated at the elite level of society, and that they were often indistinguishable from women born into the upper or gentry class, is indicative of this era's blurry social strata, which has prompted scholars and writers to elevate the place of the educated courtesan in Ming society.
Regine Mathias. Japan in the Seventeenth Century: Labour Relations and Work Ethics.
In Japan, the transformation of labour relations from medieval forms of serfdom, lifelong service, and corvée labour to short-term contracts and wage labour was already under way by the seventeenth century. In the second half of the seventeenth century short-term employment based on contracts became common. Indentured labour gradually changed into wage labour. Government policies included enabling greater mobility for the workers, while also trying to set limits to migration flow to the cities. Some Confucian scholars welcomed this new form of labour relations; others condemned them. The few sources about the work ethics of waged workers imply mockery about their loose morals and work attitudes, but also complaints about workloads and exploitation.
Shireen Moosvi. The World of Labour in Mughal India (c.1500–1750).
This article addresses two separate but interlinked questions relating to India in Mughal times (sixteenth to early eighteenth century). First, the terms on which labour was rendered, taking perfect market conditions as standard; and, second, the perceptions of labour held by the higher classes and the labourers themselves. As to forms of labour, one may well describe conditions as those of an imperfect market. Slave labour was restricted largely to domestic service. Rural wage rates were depressed owing to the caste system and the "village community" mechanism. In the city, the monopoly of resources by the ruling class necessarily depressed wages through the market mechanism itself. While theories of hierarchy were dominant, there are indications sometimes of a tolerant attitude towards manual labour and the labouring poor among the dominant classes. What seems most striking is the defiant assertion of their status in relation to God and society made on behalf of peasants and workers in northern India in certain religious cults in the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries.
Najaf Haider. Norms of Professional Excellence and Good Conduct in Accountancy Manuals of the Mughal Empire.
In Mughal India, accounts were kept by individuals and institutions for purposes of reference and planning. Accountancy required a set of objectives and techniques for collecting, organizing, and presenting information so that it could then be put to use. It also fostered learning. Subsisting on formal or informal training, professional accountants equipped themselves with linguistic and mathematical skills, the art of notation, mnemonic devices, and the ability to translate loosely defined units into precise terms and numbers. Accountants were an important component of the state apparatus, village administration, and elite household management. In the seventeenth century manuals were produced in Persian by private individuals for the guidance of persons seeking to acquire proficiency in accountancy (siyaq) and clerical work. No study has been made so far of the manuals themselves nor of the people who compiled or used them. This introductory essay examines the manuals (generally titled Dasturu-l Amal) and the information they contain about the system of accountancy as well as about the professional ethics and norms of ideal behaviour of the secretarial class.
Tarcisio R. Botelho. Labour Ideologies and Labour Relations in Colonial Portuguese America, 1500–1700.
During the two first centuries of Portuguese colonization in America there was an intense debate about the legitimacy of enslaving Africans and Indians. In Portuguese America, the mission to spread the Christian faith was connected with the subjection of populations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to an ideology that considered labour as God's punishment for Adam's sin. In that sense, the justification of the unfree labour inflicted upon Indians and Africans in Portuguese America was a product of the same ideology, one that condemned manual work as rendering a man dishonourable. The purpose of this article is to review the debate from its medieval origins in Portugal, and to examine what effect the arrival of the Jesuits in America had on that debate, until the final prohibition of Indian enslavement in the mid-eighteenth century, documented by letters, reports, and sermons.
Raquel Gil Montero. Free and Unfree Labour in the Colonial Andes in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.
This article analyses free and unfree labour in mining centres in the Andes during early Spanish colonial times. It focuses on two themes: the condition of indigenous or "native" people as "free labourers", and the mita system of unfree labour. For that purpose I shall consider the cases of Potosí, the most important mining centre in the Andes, and San Antonio del Nuevo Mundo in southern Bolivia, a large mine unaffected by the mita system of labour obligations.