It is often believed that “in the past”, women were confined to the home and supported by their husbands (the “male breadwinner model”). While this may be true for nineteenth-century bourgeois society, it is a picture that misrepresents societies further back in time. In the early modern world, all people engaged in work, paid or unpaid. What this meant for gender relations and for people’s capabilities is the key question in the Gender and Work project. In this subproject, early modern state administration will be studied, with a particular focus on customs officers. These men often had insufficient salaries and problematic working conditions which made their wives’ contributions crucial. At the same time, however, women rarely appeared as civil servants in their own right. How should this pattern be explained, and does it explain the later rise of the male breadwinner model?