Toward a Comprehensive Law: Tsarist Factory Labor Legislation in European Context, 1830–1914

  • Boris B. Gorshkov


Factory labor legislation in tsarist Russia is almost a blank page in our understanding of the era. This article seeks to fill this page by chronicling the introduction of laws on factory labor in tsarist Russia and by situating this legislative process into the general context of labor legislation in Europe during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Throughout the nineteenth-century, Russia’s industrial labor force was undergoing constant change. Unfree labor, that is the labor of individuals juridically attached to state or manorial factories, was already declining sharply by the mid-nineteenth century in favor of a free, hired industrial labor force based upon the employment of peasant-migrants. With the rapid development of the capitalist economy during the second half of the nineteenth century, the number of industrial workers grew dramatically. In order to accommodate the needs of capitalist development, regulate labor relations, and spur the growth of a reliable labor force, the tsarist government introduced numerous decrees and laws beginning in the 1830s and continuing into the early twentieth century. These acts, introduced over many decades, took the form of regulations regarding the terms of employment, work hours for women and children, health insurance, worker’s compensation, and old age pensions, as well as requirements about children’s education.


Child Labor Night Work Factory Child Industrial Labor Labor Legislation 
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Copyright information

© Susan P. McCaffray and Michael Melancon 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Boris B. Gorshkov

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