Social Relations in the Estate Villages of Mecklenburg c.1880-1924

constantine, simon
Date published: 
August 2007

The geographical mobility in the European labour-market today is not unprecedented. In the decades before World War One cross-border economic migration, commuting, and job-switching were all common-place. Nowhere was this more true than in the German states of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg Strelitz. Here estate owners preferred to hire large numbers of the male and female workforce on a seasonal basis, employing workers from local peasant villages, and importing foreign migrant labourers from Russian-Poland during planting and harvesting. In order to keep poor relief costs low, employers also kept most of the core workforce on short-term annual contracts. This book follows this extremely dynamic society through the upheaval of rural-urban migration and seasonalization, the catastrophe of World War One, and the post-war political and economic crises. It examines how employers managed such a heterogeneous and unstable workforce. Using source material left by the workers themselves, it also focuses on the relationship between the different groups of labour, and on the strategies that they adopted in their relations with management.