Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The economic history of work and family

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In Maynard (USA)

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Important information

Typology Bachelor's degree
Location Maynard (USA)
Start Different dates available
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Maynard (USA)
  • Start:
    Different dates available

This course features an extensive reading list and examples of student work in the assignments section.

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Where and when



Maynard (USA)
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Different dates availableNow taking bookings

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What you'll learn on the course

Economic History

Course programme

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

This course will explore the relation of women and men in both pre-industrial and modern societies to the changing map of public and private (household) work spaces, examining how that map affected their opportunities for both productive activity and the consumption of goods and leisure. The reproductive strategies of women, either in conjunction with or in opposition to their families, will be the third major theme of the course. We will consider how a place and an ideal of the "domestic" arose in the early modern west, to what extent it was effective in limiting the economic position of women, and how it has been challenged, and with what success, in the post-industrial period. Finally, we will consider some of the policy implications for contemporary societies as they respond to changes in the composition of the paid work force, as well as to radical changes in their national demographic profiles. Although most of the material for the course will focus on western Europe since the Middle Ages and on the United States, we will also consider how these issues have played themselves out in non-western cultures.

The readings for this course are designed to stimulate a particular interest in some aspect of the allocation of and remuneration for productive and reproductive work, in either the past or the present. Each student will be expected to complete a substantial research paper on a topic of their choosing as the culminating assignment for the course. In addition, there will be two one-page discussion papers due earlier in the term based on readings assigned for the class session at hand. Students are also expected to attend every class session prepared to discuss the assigned reading in depth. The research papers may take one of three forms. First, students may pursue an original reading of primary materials, either contemporary or historical. Second, they may write a well-developed review essay which considers the current historical or social scientific literature on a particular topic in depth. Or third, they may draft a policy paper in which they take a topic of current concern and propose policy choices which governments could pursue relevant to the amelioration of that concern. In all cases these papers should be on the order of 15-20 pages.

The course grade will be determined by three components:

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