CFP proposed session ESSHC 2016: Women and Labour under Colonial Rule (19th and 20th centuries)

Session proposal for the ESSHC 2016, Labour Network

Event: European Social Science History Conference, 2016
Date: 30 March – 2 April 2016
Location: Valencia

Organizer: Daniëlle Teeuwen, Wageningen University and Research Centre

Proposed session:
Women and Labour under Colonial Rule (19th and 20th centuries)


Historians interested in women’s labour in colonial eras usually face some challenges when trying to quantify female labour force participation in European colonies. To start, colonial administrators regularly failed to register the female part of the population in their statistical enquiries and documentation, as a result of which women often stay invisible in the sources. Especially regarding informal and reproductive types of work sources are scarce. Moreover, even if they did record women’s laborious activities, the sources are often biased, as in that they reflect European views on women and their role in society. The first question this sessions aims to discuss is how to overcome difficulties with the source material. Which sources and methods can be used to study women’s work in European colonies?


The next question that will be raised is: which trends and developments in female labour force participation can be observed from these sources? More specifically: what was the influence of European policy on women’s work in the colonies in the 19th and 20th centuries? For example, how did an increase in the cultivation of cash crops and levels of monetization affect women’s place in the labour force? Did the colonies’ changing economies lead to a growing division of labour, in which men increasingly worked for wages on plantations or in mines, while women continued to grow food for household consumption, or did women as well increasingly participate in wage labour? And how did European notions on domesticity and the place of women in the household influence indigenous realities?


This session will focus on the 19th and early 20th centuries, a period in which European states increasingly attempted and succeeded to enforce their political control over their colonies, as well as to influence indigenous labour markets. The aim is to include a comparative perspective by bringing together several scholars working on female labour in colonial eras in different parts of the world.


Please send your paper proposal (maximum 500 words) and a short CV before 24 April 2015 to Daniëlle Teeuwen (e-mail:


Daniëlle Teeuwen
Postdoc researcher, Wageningen University and Research Centre