Industrial Paternalism in the 19th Century


The story of industrial paternalism typically is a tale of a declining managerial system, finally getting its death blow at the turn of the century 1900. The author questions this view by concluding that characteristic features of industrial paternalism actually are brand new in the final decades of the 19th century. A claiming of ‘caring’ for the welfare of the workers is generally a new thing, in most countries ‘founded’ around 1870, in England some twenty years earlier. It is argued that this shift in paternal management mainly is caused by the increased threat of workers turning socialists. The conclusions are reached through a detailed historical ‘field study’ on a large Danish industrial plant in the period 1850-1920, and by comparison with other studies of industrial paternalism.

How to Cite

Nielsen, N. J., (2000) “Industrial Paternalism in the 19th Century”, Ethnologia Europaea 30(1), 59-74. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Niels Jul Nielsen (Copenhagen City Museum)



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