Continuity and Change

Research Article

Married women's occupations in eighteenth-century London


a1 Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, and Institute of Historical Research, University of London.


The evidence of criminal court records suggests that almost all London wives were engaged in gainful occupations in the eighteenth century. The records of the City livery companies and of Christ's Hospital show that the wives of craft masters and professional men worked, as well as those in poorer families where their income was essential. At lower socio-economic levels it was unusual for couples to work in the same trade. At middling levels it was more common, especially in textiles and retail, but no more than half of couples worked together or in related occupations.