Making a Living: Work, Gender and Society 1700-1850 (DL) HIST5184

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Taught Wholly by Distance Learning: Yes

Short Description

This course offers an opportunity to study the way working lives in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century in Europe and the Atlantic world were shaped by gender, social status and other measures of difference. It addresses questions that historians and feminist economists have raised on what gets counted as 'work', and the impact on our assessment of economies. It will introduce students to the increasing body of literature that adopts a gender-inclusive approach, which has shaped new narratives about capitalist development, and prompted debates on 'industriousness', women's contributions to family earnings and motivations for labour force participation. Focusing on work in a period of developing industrial working conditions, nascent capitalism and expanding consumption, it will explore the impacts of changing economic conditions on men and women, the significance of taking women's work into account in explanations of economic change, and the role of work in shaping identity. Moving beyond traditional definitions of 'work', it will draw on insights from modern feminist economics as well as the burgeoning historical literature, to explore work in domestic or familial settings, care work, unpaid labour, enforced labour, and labour migration, alongside agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors.


10 x 2-hour sessions over 10 weeks.

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Master's at College level.

Excluded Courses





1 x Essay (3,000 words) 60%

1 x Short Research Project (2,000 words) 40%

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Engage students in independent and original analysis of a rich variety of historical evidence relating to working lives between 1700 and 1850, using objects, texts and images relating to themes including care, migration, rural work, urban markets, manufacturing and household work, thereby developing intellectual skills which will be of benefit in a wide range of careers;

■ Provide participants with the opportunity to engage with contemporary historiographical and interdisciplinary debates in feminist economics and on the intersection of inequalities and to appraise the relative validity of alternative historical interpretations in seminar discussion and in source criticism.

■ Develop participants skills in pursuing individual research and crafting arguments by developing an extended piece of academic written work.

■ Develop collaborative working skills and effective communication skills in seminar presentations and project work.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Compare the various and changing contexts, practices and access to work, and understand the ways these were conceptualised and understood by contemporaries.

■ Assess the complexities involved in the construction of occupational identities, and how they were experienced in different ways, at different times and places.

■ Evaluate different disciplinary approaches to the study of work, by employing an interdisciplinary approach incorporating economic, social, and gender histories as well as approaches in feminist and development economics to assess their contribution to understanding economic and social development in the past.

■ Critically engage with primary and secondary sources to construct an independent argument.

■ Critically reflect on the process of collaboratively designing and preparing a research project to present to a non-academic audience

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.