The conditions under which the obscure mass of women live and fulfil their duties as human beings, have a vital influence upon the destinies of the human race…
Alice Clark, 1919
It was this conviction that drove Alice Clark to write her pioneering study of the working life of women in seventeenth-century England. One hundred years later, few historians would now contest such a statement, and as a consequence the obscurity of women’s lives in the early modern past is less acute than in Clark’s time. But how far have we come in our understanding of women’s work? How have historians added to, and revised, the picture mapped out by Alice Clark?
The centenary of the publication of this seminal work presents a great opportunity to both celebrate the scholarship of Alice Clark, and to reflect on the current state of the history of early modern women’s work. And so, we would like to invite you, dear reader, to join an online reading group here on the many-headed monster that will do just that.
Between now and October of this year we will read one chapter a month of Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century (freely available on archive.org here). For each chapter a leading historian will offer their reflections on it in a blog post, which will serve as a starting point for discussion ‘below the line’ in the comments section (and/or on twitter, no doubt).
The blog posts will be published at the start of each month, on the following schedule, with a double-header in early April to kick us off:
A Biography of Alice Clark – Tim Stretton
I. Introductory – Susan Amussen
II. Capitalists – Amy Froide
III. Agriculture – Jane Whittle
IV. Textiles – Amy Erickson
V. Crafts and Trades – Laura Gowing
VI. Professions – Mary Fissell
VII. Conclusion – Susan Amussen
These discussions will culminate in a roundtable at the NACBS in Vancouver in November.
So, if you are interested in participating then dust off or click through to a copy of the book, and start reading the Introductory chapter ahead of our first blog posts and round of discussion in early April!
If you want to ensure you don’t miss any of these posts you can sign up for email alerts: if you scroll up to the top of this page a ‘Follow’ button should appear in the bottom right hand corner.
If you want to comment on any of the posts but do not wish to sign up for a wordpress account to do so, just email them to Mark, whose address you can find here.
If you want to take the discussion to twitter use the hashtag #AliceClark100 so that people can follow the conversation.
I look forward to it. Question: if we assume that the ‘factors’ of production can be separated out (well, ambiguously) into land, labour and capital, how do ‘capitalists’ (i.e. AF’s female investors) contribute to the working lives of women?
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