The 19th century saw a great upheaval in the way work was ordered in Europe as a result of technological revolution, and a new way of organising society emerged. Ever-increasing numbers of factory workers organised into trade unions to protest against working conditions. European women from the least privileged social classes worked in the fields, in factories or in domestic service. It was not until the end of the century that poor children started to go to school instead of to work.

In the Arab and Ottoman world, where industrialisation was less advanced, traditional professions professions – primarily in the hands of men – continued to exist. Very few women worked in urban professions, but many were involved in trade and commerce or were active in agriculture. In regions under European control, the local labour force was exploited, poorly paid and had limited rights. Trade unions were set up relatively late, since the workers took a long time to organise.
The water carrier

Late 19th century – early 20th century

Private collectioner Mohsen Yammine, Zgharta, Lebanon

Black and white photograph

A multitude of minor professions such as this one still existed in Middle Eastern cities, towns and villages during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This traditional water carrier would have fetched water from a fountain, well or spring and carried it to the upper storeys of buildings for people to buy.

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