Family budgets and wages of Barcelona textile workers (1856-1917)

By Cristina Borderías

In Barcelona, during the first period of industrialisation, most of the conflicts between entrepreneurs and workers arose mainly in relation to the autonomy of skilled workers, threatened by the new factory system, as well as because of changes in policies of valuation of yields. These conflicts developed very early in the main sector of industrialisation: cotton textiles and more particularly spinning. It was the workers in this sector who first demanded a so-called “family wage” before this aspiration extended to the entire working class. We know how the rhetoric of the “male breadwinner model” gradually spread to other trades, with the support of Krausist, hygienist and social-Catholic intellectual elites. But we know little about its real scope in the 19th century. This paper sheds light on the dissemination of this model in Barcelona during the period 1856-1917, by relying on a reconstitution of family budgets of workers in the textile sector, the largest sector of the Catalan and Barcelona industrialisation.

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