Widows in European Economy and Society, 1600-1920

February 2017
14 black and white illustrations
342 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037030, HIS010000, SOC028000

Widows in European Economy and Society, 1600-1920

Beatrice Moring, Richard Wall

A deeply researched and geographically wide-ranging study that reveals that widows were much more economically and socially active than is often thought.
2017 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

"A terrific piece of work". JANE HUMPHRIES, Professor of Economic History and Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford

Widows are often viewed as being marginalised in society, struggling to make a living and in need of financial and other support. However, as this extensively researched and wide-ranging book reveals, widows did, in fact, engage very effectively in economic activity, often being in charge of families, households and commercial enterprises. The book outlines how extensive widowhood was; examines the provisions made for the support of widows, including in the form of marriage contracts, dowries and charitable assistance; and provides numerous examples of widows being economically active, paying their way and involving themselves energetically in society - one notable example being Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, who established a very successful company producing La Veuve Clicquot champagne. Using statistical analysis and individual case studies, the book contrasts the situation in different parts of Europe, and between rural and urban areas, and shows how provision for widows both in law and in practice evolved over time. Overall, it contributes a great deal to women's history, helping to correct the image that women were victims of male society, and to family history, showing that exceptions to the "ideal" nuclear family were very common.

BEATRICE MORING is Associate Professor in the Department of Political and Economic Studies at the University of Helsinki.

RICHARD WALL was a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Essex.

Table of Contents

Widows and Poverty
Widows, Legislation and Property
Assessing the Assets of the Widow
Life Interest, Usufruct or Pension, the Mainstay of the Widow?
Widows, Economy and Family
The Demography of Widowhood
Household Structure, Age. Social Status and Geography


2017 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

The authors pose a serious challenge to economic history and women's and gender history, noting that Western history has focused on younger women as well as on poverty abatement programs, instead of the rich, nuanced history that emerges when focusing on widows as independent, thriving individuals. Their book provides a much-needed challenge to the often unwittingly accepted tomes on family and what women can do. Essential. CHOICE

This book leaves us with a picture of widows as active and empowered rather than lonely and dependent. EH.NET