Rolf Bauer and Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk (eds.), Global Agricultural Workers from the 17th to the 21st Century (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2023).

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?


Katharine Frederick, Twilight of an Industry in East Africa. Textile Manufacturing, 1830-1940, London etc.: Palgrave Macmillan 2020.

Cotton textile industries vanished from much of East Africa during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This book investigates the underlying causes of industrial arrest in the region through a series of in-depth case studies. Findings are considered in light of existing studies on comparatively more resilient textile centers elsewhere on the continent to derive insights into the determinants of differing industrial trajectories across sub-Saharan Africa. Frederick argues that scholars have placed undue weight on global forces as the primary drivers of industrial decline in the Global South. Rather, this book reveals how local factors – principally demographic, geographic, and institutional features – interacted with external forces to influence unique regional outcomes during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as sub-Saharan African was increasingly integrated into global trade networks and European colonial empires.


Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, Women, Work and Colonialism in the Netherlands and Java. Comparisons, Contrasts and Connections, 1830-1940, London etc.: Palgrave Macmillan 2019.

Recent postcolonial studies have stressed the importance of the mutual influences of colonialism on both colony and metropole. This book studies such colonial entanglements and their effects by focusing on developments in household labour in the Dutch Empire in the period 1830-1940. The changing role of households’, and particularly women’s, economic activities in the Netherlands and Java, one of the most important Dutch colonies, forms an excellent case study to help understand the connections and disparities between colony and metropole. The author contends that colonial entanglements certainly existed, and influenced developments in women’s economic role to an extent, both in Java and the Netherlands. However, during the nineteenth century, more and more distinctions in the visions and policies towards Dutch working class and Javanese peasant households emerged. Accordingly, a more sophisticated framework is needed to explain how and why such connections were – both intentionally and unintentionally – severed over time.