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7 - Married Women, Contracts and Coverture in Late Medieval England

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2013

Cordelia Beattie
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Cordelia Beattie
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Matthew Frank Stevens
Affiliation:
Swansea University
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Summary

It is a wyues ocupacyon … to go or ryde to the markette: to sell butter / chese / mylke / egges / chekens / capons / hennes / pyg-ges / gees / and all maner of cornes. And also to bye all maner of necessarie thynges / belonging to housholde: and to make a trewe rekenynge and accompt to her husbande / what she hath receyued and what she hath payed.

John Fitzherbert, Book of Husbandry (1523)

Fitzherbert's picture of a woman buying and selling at market seems unremarkable. Craig Muldrew comments that, ‘In any print or painting of marketplaces in the early modern period, women are always present’, while Amy Erickson adds, ‘In all of the illustrations that I have seen women actually predominate in the market both as buyers and as sellers.’ But what if we imagine a situation in which the goods that a wife wants to buy cost more than the goods that she has sold? Would anyone extend credit to this married woman? If so, who would be liable for the debt if she did not honour it? Would it matter if she bought luxuries rather than necessities, or if the goods were for her own trade?

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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