Plague, patriarchy and ‘girl power’
in Making work more equal

By interpreting the organisation of social reproduction, as relatively autonomous, as neither predetermined, nor smoothly accommodating of economic changes, the chapter provides insight into the gendered implications of an event which shattered the calm of the medieval world: the Black Death. The growing literature on the ways in which the demographic catastrophe affected women’s economic position is seen to split into two strands with one captured by an absolutely autonomous interpretation of the reorganisation of economic and social reproduction and the other by a structuralist functionalist account, linked to influential readings of the ‘Little Divergence’ and providing a woman-centred (‘girl-powered’) interpretation of regional variations in long run growth. These interpretations are economistic and overlook the ways in which both the ruling elite and working people struggled to use the possibilities implicit in the shifting tectonic plates of production and reproduction to their own advantage. Similarly, the state reacted to secure social control and protect the interests of the landed elite with unintended consequences for gender divisions, reinforcing the subordination of women and inhibiting their economic independence.

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Making work more equal

A new labour market segmentation approach

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