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Look Inside Working Women in English Society, 1300–1620

Working Women in English Society, 1300–1620


  • Date Published: June 2005
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521608589

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About the Authors
  • This study explores the diverse and changing ways in which English women participated in the market economy between 1300 and 1620. Marjorie Keniston McIntosh assesses women's activity by examining their engagement in the production and sale of goods, service work, credit relationships, and leasing of property. Using substantial evidence from equity court petitions and microhistorical studies of five market centres, she challenges both traditional views of a 'golden age' for women's work and more recent critiques. She argues that the level of women's participation in the market economy fluctuated considerably during this period under the pressure of demographic, economic, social, and cultural change. Although women always faced gender-based handicaps, some of them enjoyed wider opportunities during the generations following the plague of 1348–9. By the late sixteenth century, however, these opportunities had largely disappeared and their work was concentrated at the bottom of the economic system.

    • A major contribution to debates about the 'golden age' of women's work
    • Covers the transition from the late medieval to the early modern economy
    • Combines a broad overview with substantial new evidence from five English market centres
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Working Women in English Society offers a fascinating insight into the numerous ways in which women engaged with the market economy in England between 1300 and 1620 … this book offers a valuable synthesis of existing scholarship on women and work. It also constitutes a highly original study in its own right of the changes affecting women's occupations and the handicaps which they faced in trying 'to generate some income of their own' between 1300 and 1620 (p. 250). This will be a useful addition to undergraduate reading lists.' Reviews in History

    'Indeed, while this volume is an important contribution to historical scholarship on the topic of women's work in the later medieval and early modern period, it has an equally high value as an accessible, comprehensive and appealing text for undergraduate study. As someone who co-teaches a course on pre-modern women with a medieval colleague, I welcome this book with tremendous enthusiasm. It not only covers its topic well, but also it introduces students to larger historiographic debates in a way that is both concise and comprehensive.' The Journal of Economic History

    'Overall this is a neatly presented volume with helpful maps, tables and interesting illustrations, I particularly liked the alewife (p.141) and the fishwife being followed by a hopeful dog (p.195). It will encourage further research and will be a useful textbook for years to come. It is commendably affordable in paperback, which is a bonus for students and general readers alike.' Journal of Continuity and Change

    'McIntosh's work deserves a place on the shelves of anyone interested in the history of medieval and early-modern women.' Amanda Richardson, University of Chichester

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2005
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521608589
    • length: 306 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • contains: 15 b/w illus. 1 map 1 table
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Women and Their Work:
    1. Women's work in its social setting
    2. Studying working women
    Part II. Providing Services:
    3. Domestic and personal services
    4. Financial services and real estate
    Part III. Making and Selling Goods:
    5. General features of women's work as producers and sellers
    6. Drink work
    7. The food trades and innkeeping
    8. Women's participation in the skilled crafts
    9. Turning the coin: women as consumers.

  • Author

    Marjorie Keniston McIntosh, University of Colorado, Boulder
    Marjorie K. McIntosh is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her previous publications include A Community Transformed: The Manor and Liberty of Havering, 1500–1620 (1991) and Controlling Misbehavior in England, 1370-1600 (1998).

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