Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Serfdom Abolished

3 March 1861
Skazitel bylin Nikita Bogdanov, Vasily Polenov, 1876
Wikimedia Commons

In an 'Emancipation Manifesto' dated 3 March 1861, Czar Alexander II of Russia officially abolished serfdom in the Russian Empire. Free labour in the "West" has always been contrasted with serf labour in Russia. Alessandro Stanziani calls that view into question in an article in IRSH (2009 part 3).He shows that regulations in connection with Russian serfdom were actually intended not to bind the peasantry, but to identify noble estate owners, as distinct from nobles in state service or the bourgeoisie. In reality, in most ‘Western’ countries labour was similar to serfdom and the material and living conditions of ‘‘free’’ workers and servants were not necessarily better than those of ‘‘serfs’’. Free and unfree forms of labour were much more in concert than in opposition; the close link between the status of serfs and that of indentured labourers confirms the point.