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Women, legal status and market participation in late medieval England: some thoughts on recent research

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Briggs, Christopher 


Recent years have seen the appearance of a substantial quantity of new research on the question of the legal rights and experiences of women in later medieval and early modern England. This work has concentrated on the legal standing of married women compared to those who were not married. It has led to a greater understanding of the doctrine of “coverture” which held that married women lacked legal independence, and has asked how far the doctrine was observed by the courts and thus carried practical weight in shaping women’s participation in the market economy of both countryside and town. The primary aim of the proposed paper is to review the literature on coverture and property rights and draw out its implications for the study of women’s work and involvement in markets for commodities, labour and capital. It is argued that recent research shows coverture to have been a widely recognized reality which had a significant impact on the capacity of women to participate in contractual relationships.



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Cuadernos Medievales

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Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata

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