Global Agricultural Workers from the 17th to the 21st Century


Agricultural workers have long been underrepresented in labour history. This volume aims to change this by bringing together a collection of studies on the largest group of the global work force. The contributions cover the period from the early modern to the present – a period when the emergence and consolidation of capitalism has transformed rural areas all over the globe. Three questions have guided the approach and the structure of this volume. First, how and why have peasant families managed to survive under conditions of advancing commercialisation and industrialisation? Second, why have coercive labour relations been so persistent in the agricultural sector and third, what was the role of states in the recruitment of agricultural workers?

Contributors are: Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, Josef Ehmer, Katherine Jellison, Juan Carmona, James Simpson, Sophie Elpers, Debojyoti Das, Lozaan Khumbah, Karl Heinz Arenz, Leida Fernandez-Prieto, Rachel Kurian, Rafael Marquese, Bruno Gabriel Witzel de Souza, Rogério Naques Faleiros, Alessandro Stanziani, Alexander Keese, Dina Bolokan, and Janina Puder.
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Rolf Bauer, Ph.D., (2018), University of Vienna, is an economic and social historian at that same university.He is the author of The Peasant Production of Opium in Nineteenth-Century India (Brill, 2019).

Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, Ph.D., (2007), is Professor of economic and social history at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Among other publications, she authored the monograph Women, Work and Colonialism in the Netherlands and Java. Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections, 1830-1940 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).
List of Figures, Tables and Maps

Notes on Contributors

Rolf Bauer and Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk

section 1
The Agrarian Question and the Resilience of the Peasant Family Farms
1  Peasant Households under Pressure Women’s Work and the Cultivation System on Java, 1830–1870
  Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk

2 Peasant Life Courses and Social Mobility in Serfdom The Baltic Provinces of the Russian Empire in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
  Josef Ehmer

3 Escape from New York Gender and the Rural Safety Valve, 1856–1884
  Katherine Jellison

4 Landlords and Sharecroppers in Wine Producing Regions Beaujolais, Catalonia and Tuscany, 1800–1940
  Juan Carmona and James Simpson

5 Co-producers of Architects The Role of Farm Women in the Reconstruction of Farmhouses in the Netherlands after the Second World War
  Sophie Elpers

6 Hoeing the Land and Shifting the Cultivator Labour, Land and Environment in the Eastern Himalayas
  Debojyoti Das

7 Agrarian Change in the Hills of Northeast India The Unlikely Story of Shifting Agriculture
  A. Lozaanba Khumbah

section 2
Coerced Labour Relations in the Global Countryside
8 Cassava, Cacao and Catechesis Agriculture and Extractivism in the Jesuit Missions on the Amazon in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
  Karl Heinz Arenz

9 A Laboratory of Colonial Agricultural Modernity Environment, Sugar and Slavery in Cuba
  Leida Fernandez-Prieto

10 Dynamics of the Plantationocene Finance Capital and the Labour Regime on British Colonial Plantations in Nineteenth-Century South Asia
  Rachel Kurian

11 The Mistress of the Coffee Markets of the World Slavery in Brazil and the Kangany System in Ceylon, c. 1815–1878
  Rafael Marquese

12 A Contract with Many Facets Sharecropping and Credit Interlinkages in Southwestern Brazilian Plantations, 1840–1940
  Bruno Gabriel Witzel de Souza and Rogério Naques Faleiros

section 3
State Intervention and Agricultural Labour Mobility
13 Vulnerability beyond Revolutions Rural Workers, Former Slaves and Indentured Migrants in the French Empire
  Alessandro Stanziani

14 Between Community Development Effort and Hidden Colonial Forced Labour The Long History of “Communal Labour” in Gold Coast/Ghana, 1927–2010
  Alexander Keese

15 Agricultural Labour Regimes of Im_Mobilisation On the Legacies of Internal and External Colonisation within Europe
  Dina Bolokan

16  Cheap Labour, (Un)Organised Workers The Oppressive Exploitation of Labour Migrants in the Malaysian Palm Oil Industry
  Janina Puder


Scholars and students interested in labour history, rural history, global social history, and anyone concerned with agricultural workers.
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