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Rethinking the decline-thesis: the diminishing position of woman in an urban context during the late middle ages

Women’s labour in the Middle Ages involved much more than just taking care of the household. Women participated in almost every occupation in medieval towns. However, scholars see distinct patterns in women’s possibilities in northern and southern Europe, caused by different juridical customs. More recently other scholars have criticized this view, because the southern case studies were too limited to a single area to draw conclusions about the whole southern European region. They also point out that women’s economic opportunities were not uniform within regions either. By studying women’s position in the late-medieval labour markets of two towns in Brabant, and two towns in Biscay in northern Spain, I will give an explanation of the differences in the labour position of women by geographical area and over time. In the Late Middle Ages, women’s economic position changed as they were more confined to lower labour statuses or, if the family could afford it, the household. The craft guilds’ control of the urban economy is often seen as a reason for this change. Therefore, I will analyse the world of these craft guilds in towns of variable economic importance in order to ascertain women’s labour positions in the two regions based on consideration of many factors.

Date:1 Oct 2016 →  Today
Keywords:Late Middle Ages, Gender, Urban history, Craft Guilds
Project type:PhD project