Call for papers: Compulsory Labour in Premodern Rural Europe

Session Call for papers, 14th European Social Science History Conference, 12-15 April 2023, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Carolina Uppenberg, Stockholm University and Martin Andersson, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and University of Cambridge

Deadline for abstract submission: 8 April 2022

Structures of labour exploitation lie at the heart of how historians define the development of premodern rural societies. The European marriage pattern with its abundance of young servants; Eastern European serfdom contra Western European freeholders; proto-capitalist enclosures and proletarianization of the landless: these are all examples of how the organization of rural labour is given an explanatory value for economic and social development.

In this session, we utilise a new direction of labour history which question the dichotomy of free and unfree labour. In premodern agrarian societies, where land was the basis of production and life-making, inequalities in landholding put some people in the position of being able to force others to work their fields. This includes groups such as rural servants, crofters, lodgers, corvée labourers, etc. The aim of the session is to, based on empirical studies of how this was done in practice in different regions of Europe and during different time periods during the premodern era, offer an opportunity of comparisons regarding the following questions: who was able to force others to work, what kinds of work were people compelled to perform, and how were claims of compulsory labour justified, ideologically understood, and forced through?

This session aims at offering new perspectives by papers exploring the following topics:

  • Compulsory labour performed by landed and landless groups, in law and practice
  • Labour demands from state officials, manorial lords, or urban communities
  • How landless groups were compelled to work for the landed peasantry
  • Poor relief and labour organization
  • The effects of compulsory labour on internal household labour organization
  • Discourses, justifications, disputes, or political debates regarding compulsion in rural labour
  • Etc.

Please send a title, a 200-word abstract of your paper, and your affiliation to no later than 8 April 2022. We will respond to all contributors within a few days. Deadline for session proposals to ESSHC is 15 April.

Conference website:

Cite this blog post
Céline Mutos Xicola (2022, March 14). Call for papers: Compulsory Labour in Premodern Rural Europe. LABOUR AND FAMILY ECONOMY. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from

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