Economic and Social History workshop


Michaelmas Term Card Graphic

Term Card for Michaelmas 2023:

16 October: Maxence Castiello (Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris): Railroad Expansion, Local Shocks and Individual Opportunities: Evidence from Nineteenth Century America Heqi Cai (LSE): The Capacity of Commerce: The Political Participation of Merchant Groups during the Taiping Rebellion

30 October: Emma Diduch (Cambridge): Factory families: textile work and women’s life courses in late nineteenth-century Derbyshire

13 November: Thomas Laver (Cambridge): Wine Production and Exchange in Late Antique Egyptian Monasteries: A Micro-Economic Analysis’

27 November: Magnus Neubert (Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies): The Socialist Experiment of Yugoslavia: Exploring the Effect of Labour-Managed Socialism on Economic Development Xavier Jou (Universitat de Barcelona): Gender Conflicts on the Shopfloor. Barcelona Women at Chocolates Amatller (1890-1914)

Our next papers will be by Magnus Neubert (IAMO) on the effect of socialism on economic development, and Xavier Jou (Universitat de Barcelona) women's work in Spanish chocolate factories. See the abstracts below:

Magnus Neubert Abstract:

This study challenges the consensus in the literature that socialism hampered growth. Most of these studies neglect the pre-socialist backwardness or ignore the institutional heterogeneity across time and space. Labour-managed socialism in Yugoslavia was the most decentralized and most dynamic socialist economy and combined social ownership and workers’ management with market coordination. Due to the divergent economic development before WWII, it is hard to disentangle the economic effect of socialist institutions and the uneven economic preconditions. Therefore, I zoom into the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia and exploit the historical event of Trieste’s liberation by the Yugoslav partisans which allowed Yugoslavia to expand territorially to the cost of Italy. The eastern part of the region was treated with socialist institutions, while the western part remained under capitalist institutions. By introducing a novel micro-regional panel dataset of decomposed GDP for 1938, 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981, and 1988, this historical setting allows for estimating the effect of labour-managed socialism on economic development for the first time. A spatial regression discontinuity design and additional evidence suggest that differences in GDP levels occurred already before WWII and are amplified by the exodus of Italian human capital and uneven market integration. Labour-managed socialism had no sig- nificant effect on economic development and let the Yugoslav part of the region even converge to the Italian part until the period of crisis and austerity in the 1980s. These results shed new light on the economic performance of labour-managed socialism and require new theoretical explanations.

Xavier Jou Abstract:

The cry of "Get married women out of the factories!" echoed within the Spanish industrial landscape at the turn of the 20th century, driven by two intertwined factors. From a societal perspective, the conviction that a married woman's realm belonged at home rather than within factory walls prevailed. On an economic note, concerns arose that women, due to their lower wages, were displacing men from job opportunities. 

This research examines this phenomenon through a compelling case study of a workers' social claim specifically targeted towards women during the process of feminization in during the latter half of the 19th century. The fundamental aim of this article is to illuminate the intricate interplay of social demands and gender dynamics in the realm of labour and business operations. Through the vehicle of a case study methodology, this research endeavours to gain insights into the intricate complexities of gender dynamics during the industrialization phase, as well as the challenges women encountered when joining the workforce in the modern factories.

On 25 May 1890, the workforce (predominantly comprising men due to the nature of their claim) at the Amatller chocolate factory went a strike. They were protesting because certain job positions, previously occupied by men, had been assigned to women. This strike represents the sparkle to comprehend the casual nature of the stereotype that positioned women as procreators rather than contributors to production, expelling them from the productive sphere and relegating them to domestic roles as wives and mothers. While women were accepted as paid workers, their roles were confined to those undesirable or unwillingly shouldered by men, steering clear of direct competition.

Scrutinizing the role of female factory workers two decades post-strike, it becomes evident that women actively participated in the chocolate factory's operations, defying the male contention. Nevertheless, the outcome of the 1890 strike cannot be framed as a victory or defeat for either men or women. The male factory workers vocalized their quest for enhanced working conditions, but regrettably, they directed their frustrations at women, swayed by the prevalent social discourse of that era. While women did step into the factory, portraying them as unequivocal victors would be an oversimplification. Their presence was restricted, with scarce avenues for professional advancement and task segregation primarily confining them to manual labour tasks. This gendered task partition perpetuated wage disparities and further marginalized women within the workspace.

The historical significance of the Chocolates Amatller's case lies in its portrayal of one of Spain's earliest documented labour gender conflicts, where workers aimed to obstruct the entry of female factory labour. Additionally, the unique archival revelation, detailing vast information about the factory employees, can be a valuable source for the study of labour and business history.  The male-initiated strike and its aftermath offer a window into the intricate interplay between gender dynamics, social claims and labour practices during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The economic and social history workshop fosters discussion on a range of social or economic topics from any time period or geographic region. Our normal format involves c.20 minute papers followed by half an hour of questions and discussion. We feature papers that consider any aspect of social or economic policy, historical demography, political economy, labour movements, financial institutions, or histories of poverty and welfare. All papers are by postgraduate students, and preference will be given to those from the University of Cambridge, but scholars from elsewhere around the world are more than welcome. The workshop provides a friendly, collaborative environment, and are usually also attended by a senior member of the Faculty to respond to the paper and offer constructive feedback. Attendance by students on the Economic and Social History MPhil is expected, and we encourage MPhil students to present works-in-progress in Easter Term. The current co-convenors are Jerome Gasson (, Yasser Alvi (, and Emily Chung ( - do get in touch with us if you'd like to share your work next term, or if you would like to help convene the workshop.

We meet 13:00-14:00 on Mondays during term in room 12, with lunch provided from 12:30 :)). Full details are to be provided on the term card and via our mailing list, which you can join here


Some previous term cards from the archive:

Easter Term 2023

Lent Term 2023

Michaelmas Term 2022

Lent Term 2021

Lent 2021

Michaelmas 2021

Lent Term 2019


Lent Term 2018Michaelmas Term 2017Michaelmas Term 2015