Female labour, status and marriage in late medieval York and other English towns
Goldberg, Peter Jeremy Piers
University of Cambridge
Faculty of History
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Goldberg, P. J. P. (1987). Female labour, status and marriage in late medieval York and other English towns (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11781
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The dissertation employs three major resources, viz. wills, poll tax returns and deposition material from the Church court, to explore a range of issues relating to the role of women in the urban economy of later medieval England. Despite the use of York material by way of a case study, an attempt has been made to set this evidence within a wider national and, to a more limited degree, European context. The relationship between women's economic opportunities and the prevailing marriage regime, and the social arrangements that underpin that regime, have been explored. Consideration has been given to the institution of service as a life-cycle function for both sexes, the nature and duration of service, the mechanisms by which servants were hired, and the relations between. servants and employers. The range of female economic activity has been fully examined and evidence presented for both regional and secular variation. The case argued is that the early emotional independence from I parents created by service, and the possibility of real economic independence outside marriage through servanthood and other employment, permitted women a degree of freedom to reach their own decisions about marriage and choice of marriage partner. This view implicitly challenges those analyses of nuptiality that ignore gender-specific differences in economic and emotional circumstances. The evidence assembled suggests that a characteristically north-western marriage regime prevailed within urban Yorkshire from the later fourteenth century, and points to a significant proportion of women achieving adulthood without ever marrying. The evidence further suggests profound changes in the status and opportunities of female workers in response to wider demographic fluctuations. It may be that in certain Northern towns of the ear ly fifteenth century women enjoyed a fuller economic role than at any subsequent period before the latter part of this present century. By the end of that century, however, women's economic role was becoming marginalised and women may have become more dependent upon marriage : Similarly the status of female servants was eroded and more women may have been forced into prostitution and associated petty crime as males displaced them from more rewarding (and legal) economic activity.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11781