CfP ELHN Working Group Labour and Family Economy: Labour and Old Age / Labouring Elderly

Call for Papers, EXTENDED DEADLINE 10 September 2023

Call for Papers

WORKING GROUP Labour and Family Economy

Uppsala (Sweden, 11-13 June 2024)

Organizers:  Maria Papathanassiou (Department of History and Archaeology/ National and Kapodistrian University of Athens) - Beatrice Zucca-Micheletto (DiSSGeA, University of Padua)

Labour and Old Age / Labouring Elderly

The history of the old age and the elderly constitutes an integral, yet rather neglected, part of the history of the family economy and the history of work. It is crucial to our understanding and interpreting the division of labour within households and kin groups, the features, dynamics and functioning of family economies as well as of labour markets in the past.

Family patterns, the existence of multigenerational households, the chronological limits and the definitions of old age, all differed depending on space and time, and all significantly affected the relation between old age, labour, and family economy.

Our interest centers on three basic interrelated groups of questions:

  • Who belonged to the “elderly”, and what was the content of “old age” in past societies? How far did the chronological limits, the content, and in general the social meanings attributed to old age depend on social class and gender, and how did this affect the households’ division of labour as well as individual labour experience?
  • How did physical or mental inability, due to old age, affect the division of labor within households in the past? Who took care of the elderly, under what conditions, what did this care mean for the reallocation of time and how did it affect the division of labor among household members?
  • How far did those elderly who were generally able to work contribute to family economy? What were their work tasks within the household and why? How did age affect family division of labor and how did it interact with gender?
  • What about those without a family, those who lacked a family economy to rely on? Did communities, the authorities, the state take care of them and how? Did such a care mean that they were exempted from work, and if so under what circumstances?

Proposals may refer, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • the transfer of peasant property from the older to the younger generation under specific terms and its impact on the division of labor;
  • the old age and struggle for survival of life long service (despite service being ideally associated with youth);
  • the role of elderly in domestic industry, and proto-industry;
  • the impact of industrialization on the family and on the division of labour within it with an emphasis on old age;
  • the assignment of housework and of looking after infants and young children to the elderly and its gender specific dimensions;
  • the quality of work/ and the working time assigned/required to elderly people and possible comparisons with other age slots (f.e historical evidence on child labour in Europe shows that both children and the elderly often undertook the same simple and time-consuming tasks);
  • the role of elderly in migration context (f.e. we know that in the period of mass migration in Southern Europe parents often migrated living their children behind in the care of the grandparents / husbands often migrated leaving their wives and children behind in the care of the elderly);
  • the interaction between changes in labour relations due to old age and power relations within the household or in the broader context of a kin group;
  • the work of elderly people outside the family context (i.e. in charity institutions, hospitals, etc.)

Although early modern, modern, and contemporary Europe build our starting points, we very much welcome proposals regarding also other regions as well as earlier time periods.

Please send your proposal (max 500 words) and a short CV to: and by 10 September 2023 (EXTENDED DEADLINE).

Authors will get notified of their acceptance by 20 September 2023.

For more information please see: AND