Gender and Space in Early Modern England

Gender and Space in Early Modern England

Amanda Flather

A nuanced re-evaluation of the ways in which gender affected the use of physical space in early modern England.
Space was not simply a passive backdrop to a social system that had structural origins elsewhere; it was vitally important for marking out and maintaining the hierarchy that sustained social and gender order in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Gender had a considerable influence on its use and organization; status and gender were displayed physically and spatially every moment of the day, from a person's place at table to the bed on which he or she slept, in places of work and recreation, in dress, gesture and modes of address.

Space was also the basis for the formation of gender identities which were constantly contested and restructured, as this book shows. Examining in turn domestic, social and sacred spaces and the spatial division of labour in gender construction, the author demonstrates how these could shift, and with them the position and power of women. She shows that the ideological assumption that all women are subject to all men is flawed, and exposes the limitations of interpretations which rely on the model and binary opposition of public/private, male/female, to describe gender relations and their changes across the period, thus offering a much more complex and picture than has hitherto been perceived. The book will be essential reading not just for historians of the family and of women, but for all those studying early modern social history.

AMANDA FLATHER is a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Essex.

Table of Contents

Prescriptive Space
Domestic Space
The Spatial Division of Labour
Social Space
Sacred Space


[A] fine book [.] offering a closely focused and nuanced examination of the practice of patriarchy in a range of arenas in seventeenth-century England. A rich and subtle work of gender analysis and a lovely illustration of what can be garnered from the incidental detail of court depositions to flesh out the dynamics of early modern social interaction. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW Important reading for established scholars of the period. [...] As the study of gender matures, revisionist works such as this one redefine and broaden work being done in the field, bringing fresh nuances and complexities to the debate. RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY, Spring 2008 offers interesting information on how early modern men and women moved through their physical world, re-creating and challenging the moral and social expectations created by proscriptive literature. JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES, July 2008, vol 47, no3 A fascinating book.[...]There is a wealth of detail here and the copious examples are testimony to Flather's tenacity in the archives. This is a welcome addition to the growing historiography of early modern spatial enquiry [and] will prove useful to specialists and students alike. PARERGON

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