This paper is part of a wider research project ‘Industriousness in an Imperial Economy’, which studies the influences of colonial connections on household labour allocation in the Dutch Empire, not only in the colony (Java), but also in the metropole (the Netherlands). This specific case study explores the effect of colonial policies and institutions on gendered labour relations in the Javanese and Dutch textile industries through the perspective of mutual colonial influences. Many historians have contended that the flood of Dutch factory textile imports into Java have ruined indigenous Javanese textile production (e.g. Marks and Van Zanden 2012; Lindblad 1994). Closer research however reveals that the impact of Dutch state-subsidized textile imports had less dramatic effects than most historians suggest. Javanese workers, particularly women, found niche markets and profited from the imported factory-made yarns and white cloth, which stimulated hand-weaving and cloth printing until the 1920s. Moreover, this paper argues that colonial policies and connections also affected metropolitan textile production. Firstly, Dutch exports to Java stimulated industrialization in the Netherlands, entailing new gendered divisions of labour. Secondly, colonial profits contributed to rising male wages in the late 19th century, which presumably caused married Dutch women to quickly and extensively withdraw from formal paid work, compared to women in other West European countries.
Prof. dr. Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk is Associate Professor in Economic and Social History at Utrecht University and holds a Special Chair in Comparative History of Households, Gender and Work at Radboud University, Nijmegen. She currently leads the NWO Vidi-research project ‘Industriousness in an Imperial Economy’ and has recently obtained an ERC Consolidator Grant for a new research project on the role of household labour in the global relocation of textile production since circe 1750. For more information and publications see: http://elisenederveen.com.
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