Rural History, 2022, pp. 1-18.
In this article we study the distinct formative stages of the labour market for external wet nurses employed by Galician foundling hospitals in the second half of the nineteenth century. We focus on changes in the nature of wet nurses’ work due to the benevolence laws (1822, 1836, 1849) that were driven by Spain’s liberal state. We also examine wet nurses’ socio-demographic profile and the geographic distribution of their labour markets. Finally, we explore the economic impact that Galician foundling hospitals had on rural districts, looking closely at the importance of external wet nurse wages for family budgets.