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Men at Work
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This study redresses the North and South imbalance of much of the work in British economic and social history by focusing on the impact of the building trade. The period 1450-1750 witnessed substantial changes in England, including the size of national population, the range of industry, agricultural techniques, and the proportion of population tied to the soil. Using sources from local archives, the author addresses conditions of work in the building trades, levels of remuneration, gender differences in work, and relationships with employers.


1. Introduction; 2. Building craftsmen at work; 3. The life-cycle of building craftsmen; 4. Labourers; 5. Conditions of work for labourers and building craftsmen; 6. Wage rates in the northern towns; 7. Towards an understanding of living standards; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.


"Woodward's book contributes valuable new information....Woodward's book is impressively researched, closely argued, and highly readable. Every respectable historical research library should possess a copy." The Historian

"The renewed vitality of the economic history of early modern England is amply confirmed by this admirable study. Men at Work is a tightly structured, thickly illustrated and lucidly argued book, which succeeds at several levels....This is a rich and rewarding book, firmly based on painstakingly collected and accessibly presented quantitative evidence, and displaying throughout a sustained effort to convey the texture of the lives behind the figures." Times Literary Supplement

"Woodward makes judicious use of account books, municipal records, personal papers, and probate inventories to provide insights into the economic circumstances and social practices of a modernizing world. Well written and prodigiously documented...." Choice

"This is an impressive piece of work that both confirms conclusions that hitherto have been based exclusively on evidence from southern England and adds much to our understanding of the experiences of building craftsmen and laborers....careful and stimulating scholarship." John S. Craig, Albion

"Woodward has done us all a favor by plunging into the surviving accounts of the councils, churches, and other institutions of a number of northern towns so as to bring to the surface a picture of the working life of building craftsmen and laborers. Because this work is constructed largely around this archival research, the strengths of the book are a reflection of the strengths of the sources. The author reveals a great deal about the sorts of jobs that these workers did, the sizes of their operations, how they were paid, how their work was arranged, and how the gilds operated." Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"...a rousing study. More than a good read which presents the reader a feel for the work of the period, this book also makes significant contributions to our understanding of the early modern building trades. Woodward brings a fresh perspective to the topic and looks at largely unused archival sources....Men at Work reconstructs the skelatal structure of the urban building trades in early modern northern England. With his marvelous exploitation of the sources for illustrations of real people, Woodward has also succeeded in adding flesh and bone to the story." Tim Fehler, Sixteenth Century Journal

" This is a satisfying and enjoyable book to read because of the warmth and humor of the writing and its skilful and undogmatic arguments." Christopher Dyer, Albion

"There is a long-standing debate about living standards in early modern England, and Donald Woodward's book is an important contribution to this discussion..the author is refreshingly candid...Woodward's book is impressively researched, closely argued, and highly readable. Every respectable historical research library should possess a copy." The Historian

" many aspects it might serve as a model study. It opens new archives, focuses on work and living conditions of those at the lower end of the social scale, and worries away at accepted tenets of historical knowledge." The Sixteenth Century Journal

"...Woodward's book...heightened my conciousness of my ignorance and that, to paraphrase Doctor Johnson, is the good of learning." David Levine, Labour/Le Travail

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