Development of Artisan Workshops in Southern Sweden, 1840-1890.

Lilla salen Session 1: Consequences of Technological Change organized by Suvi Heikkuri


Johanne Arnfred


In this paper, I will analyse how the number and composition of artisan workshops in four Swedish towns changed in the latter half of the 19th century. During this period, Sweden went through drastic changes on institutional, social and economic levels. I will investigate how two of these changes – early industrialisation and increased freedom of trade – affected the artisan trades. Industrialisation has received much attention in research, but often with a focus on inventions and factories. Less attention has been given to how this development affected the artisan trades. Overlapping with early industrialisation, new legislation promoting freedom of trade for artisans were introduced in Sweden through the Factory and Handicraft Regulation (1846) and the Decree of Extended Freedom of Trade (1864). These new laws reduced entry barriers, abolished the guilds and made it possible for a wider proportion of society, including women, to open artisan workshops – at least in theory. The study is focused on artisans in the towns Helsingborg, Karlskrona, Landskrona, and Lund in Southern Sweden.

Previous research looking at the development of artisan trades has mostly worked on an aggregate level or focused on a specific trade, but this study will be based on a database containing individual artisans of all trades. The database has been created by digitising a set of craft censuses, consisting of annual workshop-level data including information about the name of owner and number of employees. This individual level data will provide a detailed level of understanding, as we can follow how both workshops and trades fared through the years. To look at the effect of industrialisation, we can compare these numbers with the development of competing factories in the area to analyse which trades might be affected the most by industrialisation. The database is also used to look at how the legal changes affected the number of workshops. Here it is special interest to see if we can find a change in how long companies stay in business before and after the changes and if this varies by type of trade, since this can give us a hint about barriers of entrance. It is also of interest to see if the gender distribution of the proprietors changed with the new legislation.


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