Small ownership remains an essential element in the understanding of the nineteenth century Greek society. Yet, this view overlooks the extent of large property and its social implications, and also underestimates class division. As a result, wage-labour analysis was neglected. However, the study of the commercial agriculture and seasonal migration of thousands of workers suggests a different image of the “quiet” rural world. This study draws upon archival research of notary and private sources to track the rarely visible labour force in the agricultural sector. On one hand, hired labour was often disguised behind sharecropping agreements; on the other, the fragile social relations between workers and landowners were barely mentioned in the press. The financial crisis at the end of the century heavily affected the large property reshaping the social map. Small ownership survived thanks to the immigrant remittances from abroad and substantially contributed to the nationalist ambitions of the Greek State. Henceforth, it would prevail over any alternative narrative about social structure.
The aim of this chapter is to analyse the issue of labour arbitration as a form of regulating and settling individual labour conflicts in Italy between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Labour arbitration involved large numbers of workers, above all in the most industrialised area. The paper contemplates two diversely representative contexts for the Italian case: Florence, considered “the most artisan of Italian cities”, and Milan, the most industrially advanced city in the country. Individual conflicts were caused by dissent of an economic nature, but also by cultural clashes that concerned the identities of workers and entrepreneurs in their patterns of behaviour and power relations, involving symbolic elements and rituals structuring relations within the working environment. This complex topic is investigated through a few examples, chosen around some key themes, those that occur most often in disputes, but also those that reveal interesting matters, difficult to find from other sources, such as: gender issues; the “bad character” of the workers; strikes and politics; job insecurity and labour mobility, and the situation of women in the workplace. The disputes appear in this light as a significant social space for the actual determination of the scope and limits of the masters’ authority. These cases, however isolated, through recognition or sanction by a judicial institution, appear to us to have a paradigmatic value: they act as patterns that reinforce specific behaviour and contribute to building a common sense in which new relationships and new limits of entrepreneurial authority were realised.