Farmers and Farm Workers: Work Organization and Social Relations on Six Farms in Central Sweden 1850-1910.

Patrick Svensson, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

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. To study changes in work organization, social relations, and well-being I use farmer diaries from six adjacent farms in central Sweden, supplemented by accounts and work lists from these farms, and probate inventories. The studied farms shared the same geography and were exposed to the same period factors but faced them with different resources and with different stages in household life-cycles. Preliminary results indicate a shift towards less annually and seasonally employed workers, to a larger share of wages paid in money, and to a decrease in joint social events between farmers and farm workers.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 210. Work in agrarian times and societies