Farmers and farm workers: work organization and social relations on six farms in central Sweden 1850-1910.

Gustafscenen Session 2: Labour, living standards and inequality organized by Erik Bengtsson, Kathryn Gary, Tobias Karlsson, Malin Nilsson and Jakob Molinder


Patrick Svensson


During the second half of the nineteenth century conditions for European farming changed radically. Improved transportations made American grain reach Europe, causing prices to fall. The agricultural depression hit large-scale farmers but also affected family farms producing grain. Combined with a general increase in income, connected to industrialization, and thereby a changing demand for food, one way to mitigate these effects was to switch to animal products. Another way was to mechanize grain production, this also to counteract rising wages from the increased demand for labour from industry. Previous research has shown that both these measures led to an on average lower number of hired workers in agriculture, instead using family members as the workforce. However, this observed general development could have different causes. This paper sets out to study whether this tendency was due to a structural shift in the overall composition of farms, or if it was due to changes in work organization on the farms. The second part of the paper investigates whether these potential changes in the work organization affected the relationships between the farmer family and the employed farm workers in terms of social relationships and the well-being of the farm workers.


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