Research on historical processes such as commercialisation traditionally concentrated on the motors of change and measurement of their impact, and considered the labouring classes as the passive objects of such changes. Developments in the social sciences in recent years have stimulated a new reading of the historical sources in terms of the social relations and strategies of families in interpreting and adapting to their own use institutional settings and economic resources. The essays presented here explore the relationship between the historical experiences of social relations and the demands and opportunities offered by the economy in early modern Europe through a focus on the strategies of labouring families. Critical discussion of the historian's use of sources characterises the essays, which provide case-studies of social groups in north-central Italy and the French Alps. They relate to three specific themes: the exploitation of non-agricultural resources in the countryside, urban guilds and charitable provision.
"[T]hose interested in families' strategies towards work and social institutions--whether guilds, charitable organizations, or municipal authorities--will find much good material in this volume." Judy Coffin, Journal of Economic History