Married Women and the Law in Premodern Northwest Europe

July 2013
1 line illustrations
260 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Gender in the Middle Ages
ISBN: 9781843838333
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BIC HBLC1, 1D, 2AB, 3H

Married Women and the Law in Premodern Northwest Europe

Edited by Cordelia Beattie, Matthew Frank Stevens

Fresh approaches to how premodern women were viewed in legal terms, demonstrating how this varied from country to country and across the centuries.
There has been a tendency in scholarship on premodern women and the law to see married women as hidden from view, obscured by their husbands in legal records. This volume provides a corrective view, arguing that the extent to which the legal principle of coverture applied has been over-emphasized. In particular, it points up differences between the English common law position, which gave husbands guardianship over their wives and their wives' property, and the position elsewhere in northwest Europe, where wives' property became part of a community of property. Detailed studies of legal material from medieval and early modern England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Ghent, Sweden, Norway and Germany enable a better sense of how, when, and where the legal principle of coverture was applied and what effect this had on the lives of married women. Key threads running through the book are married women's rights regarding the possession of moveable and immovable property, marital property at the dissolution of marriage, married women's capacity to act as agents of their husbands and households in transacting business, and married women's interactions with the courts.

Cordelia Beattie is Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Edinburgh; Matthew Frank Stevens is Lecturer in Medieval History at Swansea University

Contributors: Lars Ivar Hansen, Shennan Hutton, Lizabeth Johnson, Gillian Kenny, Mia Korpiola, Miriam Muller, S.C. Ogilvie, Alexandra Shepard, Cathryn Spence.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781782041146), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Uncovering Married Women - Cordelia Beattie and Matthew Frank Stevens
When Two Worlds Collide: Marriage and the Law in Medieval Ireland - Gillian Kenny
Inheritance, Property and Marriage in Medieval Norway - Lars Ivar Hansen
Spousal Disputes, the Marital Property System, and the Law in Later Medieval Sweden - Mia Korpiola
Married Women, Crime and the Courts in Late Medieval Wales - Lizabeth Johnson
Peasant Women, Agency and Status in Late Thirteenth- and Early Fourteenth-century England: Some Reconsiderations - Miriam Muller
London's Married Women, Debt Litigation and Coverture in the Court of Common Pleas - Matthew Frank Stevens
Married Women, Contracts and Coverture in Late Medieval England - Cordelia Beattie
Property, Family and Partnership: Married Women and Legal Capability in Late Medieval Ghent - Shennan Hutton
'For His Interest'?: Women, Debt and Coverture in Early Modern Scotland - Cathryn Spence
The Worth of Married Women Witnesses in the English Church Courts, 1550-1730 - Alexandra Shepard
Married Women, Work and the Law: Evidence from Early Modern Germany - Sheilagh Ogilvie


An important starting point for anyone who wants to understand regional variation, chronological change, and the relation between learned law and pragmatic legal processes relating to women and their economic roles. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

A nuanced, engaging volume, well worth the attention of economic, social, and gender historians alike.

This excellent collection is important reading for any student interested in the intersections of legal identity, marital status, and economic power. MEDIEVAL FEMINIST FORUM

This collection makes an outstanding contribution to the field. WOMEN'S HISTORY REVIEW

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