The Idea of Work in Europe from Antiquity to Modern Times: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Idea of Work in Europe from Antiquity to Modern Times

1st Edition

By Catharina Lis

Edited by Josef Ehmer


386 pages

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Hardback: 9780754664109
pub: 2009-07-21
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This volume takes a fresh and innovative approach to the history of ideas of work, concerning perceptions, attitudes, cultures and representations of work throughout Antiquity and the medieval and early modern periods. Focusing on developments in Europe, the contributors approach the subject from a variety of angles, considering aspects of work as described in literature, visual culture, and as perceived in economic theory. As well as external views of workers the volume also looks at the meaning of work for the self-perception of various social groups, including labourers, artisans, merchants, and noblemen, and the effects of this on their self-esteem and social identity. Taking a broad chronological approach to the subject provides readers with a cutting-edge overview of research into the varying attitudes to work and its place in pre-industrial society.


’In an era when published histories are often digested for student consumption, it is a pleasure to see books such as this that not only provide detailed research, but also a dialogue between authors and ideas, a sense of living historiography. Importantly, The idea of work is not a study of the history of work but of perceptions about work… an important contribution to our understanding of work in the preindustrial period, especially the moveable feast that is the early modern period. The articles are stimulating and link their empirical research to the historiographical questions that were the impetus for this project… will provide much to stimulate discussion and interpretation.’ Economic History Review 'This volume […] constitutes a stimulating and methodologically consistent collection of essays…' English Historical Review

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction: Historical studies in perceptions of work, Catharina Lis and Josef Ehmer. Part 1 The Heritage of Antiquity: Perceptions of work in classical antiquity: a polyphonic heritage, Catharina Lis. Part 2 Work and Identities: Reading Renaissance merchants' handbooks: confronting professional ethics and social identity, Jaume Aurell; Lifting the curse: or why early modern worker autobiographers did not write about work, James S. Amelang; The attitude of Milanese society to work and commercial activities. The case of the porters and the case of the elites, Luca Mocarelli. Part 3 Representations of Work in Visual Images and in Literary Texts: The visual representation of late medieval work: patterns of context, people and action, Gerhard Jaritz; Representations of labour in late 16th-century Netherlandish prints: the secularization of the work ethic, Ilja M. Veldman; Representing women's work in early modern Italy, Peter Burke. Part 4 Perceptions of Work in Early Modern Theory: Perceptions of work in early modern economic thought. Dutch mercantilism and central European cameralism in comparative perspective, Thomas Buchner; Cultivating the landscape: the perception and description of work in 16th- to 18th-century German 'household literature' (Hausväterliteratur), Torsten Meyer; Advocating for artisans: the Abbé Pluche's Spectacle de la Nature (1732-51), Cynthia J. Koepp. Part 5 Perceptions of Work and Labour Practices: The making of wages and attitudes towards labour in the crafts in early modern Central Europe, Reinhold Reith; Perceptions of mobile labour and migratory practices in early modern Europe, Josef Ehmer. Part 6 Discussions and Comments: Work and identity of merchants and artisans in a larger context. Comment on Jaume Aurell and James S. Amelang, Hugo Soly; Representations of labour in visual images and literary texts. Comment on Gerhard Jaritz, Ilja M. Veldman and Cynthia J. Koepp, Keith Thomas; Discourse and practice, custom a

About the Author/Editor

Josef Ehmer is Professor for Economic and Social History at the University of Vienna, Austria. Catharina Lis is Professor for Social History at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General