In the middle ages, people worked less than today

Middle Ages were worked less

Until the Industrial Revolution, work and leisure formed a single unit. Pay was not linked to specific working hours.

Around the working hours at the moment fierce discussions have flared up. "Do away with the 40-hour work week in government service", demanded on the one hand trade union boss Erich Foglar few days ago in the discussion with the ?press?. On the other hand, at the beginning of February, German researchers and politicians drew attention to themselves with a demand for radically shortened working hours (30 hours). "" reported extensively on it.

The Hobby economist is dedicated to the topic of working time and its development over the past centuries in Europe.

The fairy tale of the downtrodden craftsman

Before the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century. In the nineteenth century, work and leisure were more or less one and the same in Europe: phases of creation and phases of rest merged into one another. Place of residence and place of work were usually not separated. The generation of the daily life need stood in the foreground. In the Middle Ages, the working day often began at sunrise and ended at sunset (16 hours in summer, eight in winter). Worked through, however, was not, as also the description of the daily routine of a worker of James Pilkington, the Bishop of Durham, in 1570 shows. The working day was therefore essentially characterized by extensive breaks: for breakfast, lunch and the customary afternoon nap, for example.

Time itself played a minor role: minutes and seconds were not yet measurable. Remuneration was not linked to specific working hours. Sociologist and trained economist Juliet B. Schor does away with the image of the downtrodden craftsman – who gets up before sunrise and works late into the night by candlelight – in the Middle Ages. In her book "The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure" she writes that speed was slow in pre-capitalist times – the pace of work was relaxed as well.

1830: Up to 85-hour weeks

One consequence of industrialization – which moved the workplace to foreign factories and companies – was the introduction of fixed working hours, as well as the extension of them. "By extending working hours, entrepreneurs sought to recoup the capital invested in machines and factories as quickly as possible", writes Wolfgang Konig in his book "History of Consumer Society". Around 1830, working hours in Austria, which were not regulated by law, were 14 to 16 hours per day or 80 to 85 hours per week. Free time was in fact only on Sunday.

Work in modern times

"One does not work just to live, but lives for the sake of work, and if one has nothing more to work for, one suffers or falls asleep."

Nikolaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf (1700-1760)

But that’s not all: from now on, machines dictated the pace of work. Pressure has been built up on the workers. Every little mistake was punished (there were catalogs of fines in the factory regulations) – with fines or dismissal. There was no such thing as vacation. Even the "blue Monday, The custom of making Monday a day off, which was common among craftsmen, was strictly forbidden in Austria.

To strike with a hammer weighing eleven pounds for eleven hours?

A factory owner in Ebreichsdorf did not even allow the 15- to 16-year-old workers one hour a day for recreation. But it was not only the duration of the work that was decisive: In branches of production where working hours were shorter, working conditions were all the harsher. Herbert Matis describes in his book "From the early industrialization to the computer age the case of the foil beater Collins from the Neuhauser factory. Collins complained in 1780: "Who is it possible to strike with an eleven pound hammer for eleven hours??"

The Viennese physician J. According to Matis, Kolz investigated the conditions in the Lower Austrian spinning mills ex officio. Although he had tried to portray conditions in a rosy light, the facts had spoken for themselves. "In Pottendorf and Trumau, a half-hour lunch break was allowed, and in some other spinning mills a half-hour meal break in the morning and afternoon, during which the factory workers were allowed to have breakfast and a snack, but without interrupting their work", according to Kolz.

Excursus: Working hours in the bakery trade

In May 1893, for example, the German Commission for Workers’ Statistics asked the Professional Association of Bakers to comment on the question of statutory regulation of working hours and Sunday rest in the bakery trade. The first question was: Can the regular daily working time, including breaks and time spent on ancillary work, be generally limited to twelve hours for journeymen in bakeries??

The answer: "Yes. In smaller bakeries, workers often worked twelve hours a day, and in larger bakeries, one or more workers could very well be hired. We consider even a much shorter working time (nine hours) feasible. Of "breaks" can’t be a question in the bakeries; because even if the workers don’t work for a few minutes, they have to use the same time to monitor the fermentation process, the oven, etc. use. The name "breaks is therefore only an empty phrase."

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