Oxford Roman Economy Project University of Oxford

Family Labour and the Household Economy in the Ancient Roman City


In this paper I explore the ways in which household heads deployed the labour of dependent family members (particularly wives and sons) in the urban economy of ancient Rome. I suggest that while the volatile nature of the urban economy did encourage household heads to engage in adaptive strategies and to diversify the income streams of their households by inserting family members into the labour market, these strategies were nevertheless constrained by two factors:  first, by ideologies of gender that emphasized women's roles in production for household consumption; second, by labour markets that were less flexible than those in later European economies.

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