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A Cultural History of Work in the Age of Enlightenment

A Cultural History of Work in the Age of Enlightenment

by Deborah Simonton

Deborah Simonton is Associate Professor Emerita of British History at the University of Southern Denmark, Denmark, and Visiting Professor at the University of Turku, Finland. She was also a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Utah State University, USA. She is the author of A History of European Women’s Work (1998), leads the Network Gender in the European Town, and has co-edited a number of publications on gender and towns. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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and Anne Montenach

Anne Montenach is Professor of Early Modern History at Aix-Marseille University, France. She is the author of Femmes, pouvoirs et contrebande dans les Alpes au XVIIIe siècle (2017) and the co-editor, along with Deborah Simonton, of Female Agency in the Urban Economy: Gender in the European Towns, 1640–1830 (2013). Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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(eds)
Bloomsbury Academic, 2019
  • DOI:
    10.5040/9781350078291
  • ISBN:
    978-1-4742-4482-4 (hardback)

    978-1-3500-7827-7 (epdf)

    978-1-3500-7828-4 (epub)

    978-1-3500-7829-1 (online)
  • Edition:
    First edition
  • Place of Publication:
    London
  • Published Online:
    2018
A Cultural History of Work in the Age of Enlightenment
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The Enlightenment led to revised ideas about work together with new social attitudes toward work and workers. Coupled with dynamism in the economy, and the rise of the middling orders, work was more frequently perceived positively, as a commodity and as a source of social respectability. This volume explores the cultural implications of the transition from older systems based on privilege, control and embedded practices to a more open society increasingly based on merit and ability. It examines how guild controls broke down and political and commercial systems loosened. It also considers the theoretical justifications that brought new binding ideas, such as the strengthening of ideology on home, domesticity for the female, and work and politics for the male. North America embodied the extremes of these transitions with free workers able to make their way in a society based on ability and initiative while solidifying the ravages of the slavery system.