This book surveys women and work in English society before its transition to industrial capitalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The time span of the book from 1300 to 1800 allows comparison of women’s work patterns across various phases of economic and social organisation. It was originally published in 1985.
Several important themes are highlighted throughout the individual contributions in the book. The most significant is the association between home and work. Not only was trade and manufacture in the pre-industrial period carried out in close proximity to domestic life, many household activities also overlapped with commercial ones. The second key theme is the importance of the local social and economic environment in shaping the nature and extent of women’s work. The book also demonstrates the similarity between certain aspects of women’s work before and after industrialisation. The industrial revolution may have made sexual divisions of labour more apparent but their origins lie firmly in the pre-industrial period.