This chapter focuses on Western Europe, which, as an area, probably had the greatest number of commonalities throughout the period under review. Perhaps as significantly for women, early-modern Europe witnessed a huge expansion in provision for, and regulation of, the poor, as demographic growth and the migration to urban areas that accompanied it raised heightened concerns about social cohesion. Perhaps the most enduring theme in the historiography of women’s work in early-modern Europe concerns the long-standing debates over the relative importance of continuity versus change. Three significant interconnected socio-economic developments were to form the backdrop to the shifts in women’s work in early-modern Europe: population growth; urbanisation; and shifts in the direction and volume of trade. Across much of Europe, the impact of population growth was to increase the size of towns by encouraging rural–urban migration and since mortality in urban areas was considerably higher than in the countryside.
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