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London widowhood revisited: the decline of female remarriage in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 January 2009


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1 Brodsky, Vivien, ‘Widows in late Elizabethan London: remarriage, economic opportunity and family orientations’, in Bonfield, L., Smith, R. M. and Wrightson, K. eds., The world we have gained. Histories of population and social structure (Oxford, 1986), 123.Google Scholar

2 Brodsky, , ‘London widows’, 132–44.Google Scholar For other references to the restricted economic opportunities for women in sixteenth-century London, see Rappaport, S., Worlds within worlds: structures of life in sixteenth-century London (Cambridge, 1989), 3642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

3 Brodsky, , ‘London widows’, 128.Google Scholar

4 Ibid. 123.

5 Wrigley, E. A. and Schofield, R. S., The population history of England 1541–1871: a reconstruction (London, 1981), 259.Google Scholar For the problems of remarriage, see ibid. 190, 257–9, 264, 426–7. See also Wrigley, E. A., ‘The remarriage conundrum: a plea for information’, Local Population Studies 23 (1979), 89;Google ScholarEdwards, W. J., ‘Remarriage: some preliminary findings’, Local Population Studies 39 (1987), 3245.Google Scholar

6 Wrigley and Schofields' estimates were based chiefly on the experience of Beccles, Suffolk, which only commences in 1608, and that of Landbeach, Cambridgeshire, which only gives details of marital status from 1592: Wrigley, and Schofield, , Population history of England, 258, note 101.Google Scholar Both these figures exclude entries where the marital status of both partners was unknown. The number of these is especially high (92/521 or 18 per cent) in the earliest period in Beccles. The figures from Landbeach also exclude incomplete entries which are again particularly common in the first fifty-year period. In the early period, addition of those individuals whose partners' status was unknown would reduce the number of individuals remarrying from 28.7 per cent to only 26.8 per cent. See the register transcript kept at the Cambridgeshire County Record Office, register ref. P104/1/2–3, covering years 1559–1795. Remarriage in Landbeach, a small fenland parish, may have been atypically high; an entry in the Landbeach register noted on 13 October 1591 the marriage of ‘Richard Badricke and Florannce Write and that this Florannce was his fifth wife’. For Landbeach, see also Stewart, Susan, “The Landbeach family reconstitution project”, Genealogists Magazine (1980), 4144.Google Scholar The latter author supplied the original figures on Landbeach cited by Wrigley and Schofield.

7 For example, Akerman's Swedish study found that remarriages formed an important part of both urban and rural fertility;indeed, ‘to the city of Koping remarriages simply meant the difference between demographic stagnation and decline’, Akerman, S., ‘The importance of remarriage in the saeventeenth and eighteenth centuries’, in Dupaquier, J. et al. , eds., Marriage and remarriage in populations of the past (London, 1981), 171.Google Scholar Wrigley and Schofield found little difference in the fertility of remarriages, other than the suggestion that widower—widow unions were of substantially lower fertility: Schofield, R. and Wrigley, E. A., ‘Remarriage intervals and the effect of marriage order on fertility’, in Dupaquier, Marriage and remarriage, 225.Google Scholar

8 See, for example, Macfarlane, A., Marriage and love in England 1300–1840 (Oxford, 1986), 231–2.Google Scholar

9 Note, for example, his statement: ‘how important remarriage must have been as a kind of social security for children and elderly people… where all members of the population faced high risks of dying’: Akerman, , ‘Importance of remarriage’, 174.Google Scholar See also Wales, T., ‘Poverty, poor relief and the life-cycle: some evidence from seventeenth-century Norfolk’, in Smith, R. M. ed., Land, kinship and life-cycle (Cambridge, 1984), 380–2.Google Scholar

10 Slack, P., Poverty and policy (London, 1988), 44, 179. Widows on relief received twice as much as married couples in some communities.Google Scholar

11 Macfarlane, , Marriage and love, 38, 98, 234–9.Google Scholar Such serial polygamy ‘is a central feature of the Malthusian marriage regime’, ibid. 234. See also Knodel, J., Demographic behavior in the past (Cambridge, 1988), 181–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

12 Macfarlane, , Marriage and love, 234.Google Scholar See also Akerman, , ‘Importance of remarriage’, 164Google Scholar; Brodsky, , ‘London widows’, 135–40.Google Scholar The effect of remarriage is deployed by Miranda Chaytor in the course of arguing against a too simplistic interpretation of household structure from English listings: Chaytor, Miranda, ‘Household and kinship: Ryton in the late 16th and early 17th centuries’, History Workshop Journal 10 (1980), 2560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

13 In 1688, 32 children out of 162 resident in Clayworth, Notts, (19.8 per cent) were apparently living with a stepfather or mother: Laslett, P., ‘Parental deprivation in the past: a note on the history of orphans in England’, Local Population Studies 13, (1974), 12.Google Scholar

14 Todd, , ‘Remarrying widow’, 77–9.Google Scholar

15 Todd, Barbara J., ‘The remarrying widow: a stereotype reconsidered’, in Prior, Mary ed., Women in English society 1500–1800 (London, 1985), 5483Google Scholar, especially 82, where she notes that reasons for declining remarriage included ‘the example of the women around them. It was the personal independence of widowhood that made it possible for some widows to become powerful business women and for others to be important actors in the central religious issues of the day. Prominent widows in public life showed several generations of Abingdon women that there was a positive aspect to the freedom of widowhood, a freedom that more obscure widows experienced only in their private lives’.

16 Franklin, P., ‘Peasant widows' “liberation” and remarriage before the Black Death’, Economic History Review 39, 2 (1986), 186204.Google Scholar Note his closing comments, where he suggests that medieval widows, in contrast to their early modern counterparts, ‘gladly assumed tenancy with all its obligations and responsibilities, welcoming the independence it offered’, ibid. 204.

17 Brodsky, , ‘London widows’, 126–8.Google Scholar For rural areas see Spufford, M., Contrasting communities: English villagers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Cambridge, 1974), 116–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Ravensdale, J., ‘Population changes and the transfer of customary land on a Cambridgeshire manor in the fourteenth century’, in Smith, R. M. ed., Land, kinship and life-cycle (Cambridge, 1984), 197, 219Google Scholar, where he notes that at the height of land hunger in the Middle Ages ‘the widow with land is the keystone in the social structure’. For a somewhat different picture, albeit in an area where land was cheap and abundant, see Franklin, ‘Peasant remarriage’, 187ff.

18 Flandrin, J., Families in former times: kinship, household and sexuality (Cambridge, 1979), 116.Google Scholar See also Franklin, , ‘Peasant marriage’, 199.Google Scholar

19 Brodsky, , ‘London widows’, 145Google Scholar, of all familial relationships that between husband and wife ‘could be the deepest affective bond’.

20 Adamson found that only a third of aldermen's widows chose to remarry, cited in Rappaport, , Worlds within worlds, 40, n. 46.Google Scholar

21 With 350 baptisms per year in 1606–1610, assuming a baptism rate of 32.5 per 1,000 and adding 5 per cent for under-registration of baptisms in relation to births, one arrives at a rough estimate of 11,300: East London History Group, ‘The population of Stepney in the early seventeenth century’, Local Population Studies 3, (1969), 3952.Google Scholar Gregory King counted 47,193 people living in the 10,123 houses of Stepney and Shadwell in 1695, or 4.7 persons to a house: see King, Gregory, ‘The LCC Burns journal’ in Laslett, P. ed., The earliest classics: John Graunl and Gregory King (Farnborough, 1973), 58Google Scholar, which shows that there were 39,302 in St Dunstan and 7,891 in Shadwell. This latter ratio has been applied to the number of households listed in the 1664 Hearth Tax, giving 35,231. For the number of hearths, see Power, M. J., ‘East London housing in the seventeenth century’, in Clark, P. and Slack, P., eds., Crisis and order in English towns 1500–1700 (London, 1972), 243.Google Scholar An alternative estimate from baptisms yields a slightly lower estimate of 33,192, ibid. 257.

22 There were 418 marriages out of an average national total for 1635–1639 of 41,355 or 1 per cent: Wrigley, and Schofield, , Population history of England, 555.Google Scholar Stepney's population exceeded that of the combined total of Bristol and Norwich, estimated in 1670 at 40,000: Wrigley, E. A., ‘Urban growth and agricultural change: England and the Continent in the early modern period’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 15, 4 (1985), 686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

23 Power, M. J., ‘The social topography of Restoration London’, in Beier, A. L. and Finlayeds, R.., The making of the metropolis. London J 500–1700 (London, 1986), 205.Google Scholar Only 1.5 per cent of dwellers in the inner city parishes were considered poor. The overall figure for the metropolis was 37.8 per cent.

24 This brief discussion is drawn from Power's, Michael forthcoming analysis of the occupational structure of the London suburbs, in ‘The East London working community in the seventeenth century’, in Corfield, P. and Keene, D. eds., Work in towns (Leicester, forthcoming).Google Scholar I would like to thank Dr Power for permission to cite some of his findings here. I have also used an analysis of the occupations drawn from the Civil Marriage Register of Stepney, 1653–1659, discussed below. See also East London History Group, ‘The population of Stepney in the early seventeenth century: a report on an analysis of the parish registers of Stepney’, Local Population Studies 3 (1969), 4952.Google Scholar The latter analysis, based on baptism registers, 1606–1610, reveals that 42 per cent of the men were mariners. For an extensive analysis of the baptism registers of East London parishes in the later eighteenth century, see Schwarz, L. D., ‘Occupations and incomes in late eighteenth-century East London’, East London Papers 14, (1972), 87100.Google Scholar In 1770 river and sea trades continued to dominate the riverside areas of East London, such as Shadwell (51.1 per cent of all occupations) and Poplar (56.6 per cent), and were numerically insignificant in the Spitalfields area (Spitalfields, Bethnal Green and Mile End), which was dominated by the silk industry (54.9 per cent). Such an analysis also makes clear that the numerical dominance of mariners had declined in East London over the eighteenth century, but they still formed 37.7 per cent of all occupations in Shadwell and 31.6 per cent in Wapping: ibid. 93. In 1606–1610 no less than 72 per cent of Shadwell's men had been involved in river and sea trades.

25 King's figures show 39,302 people in Stepney and 7,891 in Shadwell in 1695, or 16.7 percent of the district: King, , ‘Burns journal’, 58.Google Scholar In 1675–1679, 19 percent of the total marriages in the area were from Shadwell. For Shadwell, see also Power, M. J., ‘Shadwell: the development of a London suburban community in the seventeenth century’, London Journal 4 (1978), 2946.CrossRefGoogle Scholar Shadwell's share of the total population of Stepney had increased slightly over the seventeenth century; in 1606–1610 the baptism register reveals that only 10 per cent of the parish lived in the hamlet, whilst the burial register suggests 13 per cent: East London History Group, ‘Population of Stepney’, 41.Google Scholar

26 The marriage register is printed; see Colyer-Fergusson, T., The marriage registers of Si Dunstan Stepney (Canterbury, 18981899), vols 1–3.Google Scholar

27 Finlay, , Population and metropolis, 155–6.Google Scholar

28 See Brodsky, , ‘London widows’, 129.Google Scholar Only 48 out of 390 widows (12 per cent) remarried 4–5 years after the death of their spouse: ibid. 133.

29 Ibid, 135.

30 The plagues of 1603 and 1625 raised the average number of burials in the East End of London by factors of 7.9 and 5.8: Slack, P., The impact of plague in Tudor and Stuart England (London, 1985), 162.Google Scholar It has been suggested that the number of remarriages of those surviving the disease in rural areas was unlikely to have been very high since ‘the chances of widows and widowers in the marriage market depended on their property, and few survivors of plague can have had very much’: ibid. p. 184.

31 In Worcestershire a mortality crisis in the late 1720s raised the proportions of individuals remarrying from 15 to 25 per cent, relatively a much more substantial increase than in London: Wrigley, and Schofield, , Population history of England, 259, n. 101.Google Scholar

32 8th, 9th and 10th Annual reports of Registrar General 1845–1847. In this connection, East London comprises the registration districts of Bethnal Green, St George-in-the-East, Stepney and Poplar.

33 In the last five years of the 1670s some 2,560 couples married in these two churches every year. If we deduct one-fifth of these to allow for couples marrying from outside London then we get 2,048. The population of London can be estimated at around 488,000 by interpolating from estimates of 400,000 in 1650 and 575,000 in 1700. Assuming a crude marriage rate of ten per thousand then one would have expected about 4,880 marriages per year, some 2,048 of which, or 42 per cent, were celebrated in Duke Place and the Minories. For London population estimates see Finlay, , Population and metropolis, 51.Google Scholar These latter estimates have been preferred to the lower population estimates made by Finlay and Shearer, which would have raised the estimated proportion occurring in the two churches; see Finlay, R. and Shearer, B., ‘Population growth and suburban expansion’, in Beier, A. L. and Finlay, R. eds., The making of the metropolis. London 1500–1700 (Harlow, 1986), 3759.Google Scholar For the numbers of weddings taking place in the two churches, see the printed register of Duke Place, Phillimore, W. P. R. and Cokayne, G. E. eds, The Registers of St James Duke's Place, vols I–III. (London, 1900).Google Scholar For the Minories, see Tomlinson, E. M., A history of the Minories, London (London, 1907), 232–3, 238.Google Scholar Some 15 per cent of Fleet weddings in 1700 were from outside the capital: Brown, , ‘Fleet marriages’, 124–5.Google Scholar

34 Brown, R. L., ‘The rise and fall of the Fleet marriages’, in Outhwaite, R. B. ed., Marriage and society: studies in the social history of marriage (London, 1981), 117–36.Google Scholar

35 The summary results were as follows: for the cohort 1617–1619, 45.5 per cent of brides marrying without a licence were widows compared to 43.3 per cent of brides with one (total figure 45.0 per cent); 1620–1624, 42.7 per cent compared to 43.7 per cent (total 43.1 per cent); 1625–1629, 48.6 per cent compared to 52.9 per cent (49.8 per cent); 1630–1634, 38.8 per cent compared to 35.7 per cent (37.9 per cent); 1635–1639, 41.4 per cent compared to 37.4 per cent (40.0 per cent) and 1640 34.1 per cent compared to 34.0 per cent (34.0 per cent). Even these results, however, do not represent an explanation; they merely show that, in some periods, single women were a little more likely to marry by licence than by banns. A fall in the proportions remarrying could just as easily be used to explain the increase in the use of marriage licences as an increasing use of marriage licences could be used to explain an apparent fall in remarriage.

36 Another exercise conducted on the register of St Paul, Shadwell, 1701–1710, found that only 31.3 per cent of females were making remarriages, representing a decline since the 1670s. There is an oddity about the figures, in that the proportions of men making remarriages is very small, only 15.1 per cent-not far off nineteenth-century levels. Moreover this was associated with only very small numbers of widowers marrying spinsters (4.1 per cent) and a large proportion of bachelors marrying widows (20.4 per cent). The large proportion of bachelors reinforces the notion that East London's experience has many parallels with the experience of remarriage of those marrying by licence.

37 Roger Finlay's work produced only 70 women whose age at first marriage was known: Finlay, R., Population and metropolis: The demography of London 1580–1650 (Cambridge, 1981), 137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

38 For the register, see GLRO P93/DUN/267–8.

39 The mean interval between last banns and a wedding was 12.2 days; adding another 14 days for the last two callings of banns gives a maximum interval of about 26 days. All other things being equal then, about 26/365 individuals, or 7.1 per cent, may have given ages higher by one year, if the age statements related to their last birthday. It is not worth building in a correction factor, since the same problem, to a lesser degree, also affects marriage-licence allegation evidence. The interval between the granting of a marriage licence allegation and the actual wedding was shorter than 26 days, but by how much is not known, as yet. It is also not clear which criteria were used to make statements of age: last birthday or next or nearest birthday?

40 Finlay, , Population and metropolis, 139.Google Scholar Brodsky found that 581/1177 women marrying by licence were London-born (49 per cent), see Elliott, V. B., ‘Single women in the London marriage market: age, status and mobility, 1598–1619’, in Outhwaite, Marriage and society, 87–8Google Scholar, tables in, iv and v, summing brides marrying both bachelors and widowers. Finlay's deponent evidence is reported in Elliott, V. B., ‘Mobility and marriage in pre-industrial England’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University, 1978), 166.Google Scholar Prest found that only 8.7 per cent of members of Inns of Court were Londoners in the first half of the seventeenth century: ibid. See also Cressy, D., ‘Occupations, migration and literacy in East London’, Local Population Studies 5 (1970), 57Google Scholar, an analysis based on a sample of 104 male deponents from Stepney, and Whitechapel, , 15801639.Google Scholar

41 See Earle, P., ‘The female labour market in London in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries’, Economic History Review 42, 3 (1989), 333–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar During the later eighteenth century 20.3 per cent of husbands compared to 30.6 per cent of wives had been born in the capital: George, M. D., London life in the eighteenth century (Harmondsworth, 1966), 118.Google Scholar The proportion of Londoners amongst the male population certainly increased over the seventeenth century. In 1551–1553, 18.7 per cent of London freemen originated from the capital; in 1690 Glass's work shows that of those of known origin, 27.8 per cent did so. See Rappaport, , Worlds within worlds, 78Google Scholar; Glass, D. V., ‘Socio-economic status and occupations in the City of London at the end of the seventeenth century’, in Clark, P. ed., The early modern town (London, 1976), 229.Google Scholar Thus 18.7 per cent of male citizens were from London in 1551–1553 compared to the 14 per cent of male deponents in Stepney and Whitechapel, 1580–1639. For the 49 per cent figure for spinster brides see above, note 40.

42 This analysis includes those few brides living not in Stepney but within the London Bills of Mortality. The few brides living outside this area were excluded from the analysis. Using the groom's place of residence rather than the bride's makes no significant difference to the results.

43 Grigg, Susan, ‘Towards a theory of remarriage: a case study of Newburyport at the beginning of the nineteenth century’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 8, 2 (1977), 189CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Knodel, J. E., Demographic behavior in the past: A study of fourteen German village populations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Cambridge, 1988), 170–1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

44 Brodsky, , ‘London widows’, 131–2.Google Scholar

45 Overall Stepney men marrying spinsters married at a mean age of 27.2, compared to 27.6 of London bachelors marrying spinsters by licence. Given that the former figure must contain a number of widowers, Stepney men must have married for the first time at markedly younger ages: Elliott, , ‘Single women in London’, 83.Google Scholar

46 In St Paul, Shadwell, 1701–1710, some 20.4 percent of all unions were of this type. The most striking thing was that widower-spinster remarriages were remarkably rare, making up just 4.1 percent of all marriages. Information from the marriage register of St Paul, Guildhall Library, Challen MS.

47 Rappaport, , Worlds within worlds, 69Google Scholar; Brodsky, , ‘London widows’, 136.Google Scholar Rappaport, however, estimated that expectation of life at age 26 for London freemen was 28 years, so that the ‘majority survived until at least the age of 54 years’; Rappaport, ibid. 69. Although this latter estimate is based on only 93 cases and is likely to be biased downwards (since men dying younger are more likely to be traced before moving out of observation) it suggests that many marriages would have lasted longer than the estimates made by Brodsky suggest. It should be noted, however, that expectation of life was considerably shorter for poorer adults, more commonly found in Stepney; for the finding that adult longevity was associated with wealth, see also Rappaport, , Worlds within worlds, 71.Google Scholar

48 Finlay, , Population and metropolis, 108.Google Scholar The same relationship between social group and expectation of life at birth has been found in seventeenth-century Geneva, ibid.

49 Grigg, ‘Remarriage’, 198200Google Scholar, and note 26. Large numbers of widows in Newburyport were produced by frequent drownings at sea of relatively young husbands; of 124 deceased husbands, 29 (23 per cent) had died at sea. See also Souden, D., ‘Migrants and the population structure of later seventeenth-century provincial cities and market towns’, in Clark, P. ed., The transformation of English provincial towns (London, 1984), 153.Google Scholar

50 For Stepney's occupational structure, derived from the parish burial register, see Power, M. J., ‘The East London working community in the seventeenth century’, in Corfield, P. and Keene, D. eds., Work in towns, (Leicester, forthcoming).Google Scholar

51 Adding back the parish of Shadwell, 1701–1710, raises the proportions of those making a remarriage from 26.1 per cent to just 26.9 per cent.

52 Todd, , ‘Remarrying widow’, 62–4.Google Scholar

53 Earle, , Making of the middle class, 307–10.Google Scholar In particular, Earle's calculation of the proportion of London citizens dying under the age 50 shows a very dramatic drop in the early eighteenth century, which fall, however, is not duplicated in either the London Bills of Mortality from 1728 (when age at burial information is given) or in the burial register of St Botolph Bishopsgate, which supplies information at age of death for males and females from the beginning of the seventeenth century (see p. 342 and Table 6). Either Earle's decline is spurious, caused by some bias in Boyd's index of London citizens, or else the very dramatic increase in life-expectancy it implies held only for the wealthier London citizenry.

54 This method is very vulnerable to the extent to which deaths of fathers may have caused the putting out of sons to apprenticeships. Using this method as a base, Elliott calculated that, between 1560 and 1620, expectation of life at birth for Londoners rose from 22.3 to 30.0 in 1660–1680: Elliott, , ‘Mobility and marriage’, 191–7, 238, note 37.Google Scholar

55 Wrigley, and Schofield, , Population history of England, 250–1.Google Scholar They noted that ‘whereas infant and child mortality continued to deteriorate in the early eighteenth century, there was a sharp improvement in adult mortality between 1650–1699 and 1700–1749’; ibid. 250.

56 Landers, ‘London mortality’, 68–9, 74–5.Google Scholar The falling proportion of immigrants to London, however, which may well have occurred in the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, might have worked to reduce the proportion of susceptible immigrants in the population.

57 Landers calculates, from his Quaker reconstitution evidence, infant mortality rates for 1675–1699 of 263, 1700–1724 of 342 and 1725–1749 of 341. Finlay found rates for the poorer London parishes ranging from 271 to 318. See Landers, J., ‘Mortality and metropolis: the case of London 1675–1825’, Population Studies 41 (1987), 64CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Finlay, Population and metropolis, 102.Google Scholar Wealthier areas had substantially lower infant mortality levels.

58 See below, note 97.

59 This was probably because, in compensation for the loss of clandestine marriages, the incumbent of Duke Place was granted powers of surrogacy by the Bishop of London to sell marriage licences: Mr Anthony Benton, private communication. For the Duke Place register, see Phillimore, W. P. R. and Cokayne, G. E. eds., The registers of Si James, Duke Place (London, 1900), vols 1–3.Google Scholar

60 These figures are related to brides whose husbands gave London addresses. There is no significant difference if bride's place of residence is used; the figures for age at first marriage being 24.0 and 24.64 respectively.

61 See p. 326 and note 14.

62 Snell, K., Annals of the labouring poor: Social change and agrarian England 1660–1900 (Cambridge, 1985), 53, 211, 215–16, 345–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

63 Snell, , Annals, 211.Google Scholar

64 Earle, P., ‘The female labour market in London in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries’, Economic History Review 42, 3 (1989), 337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

65 Earle, , ‘Female labour market’, 338–44.Google Scholar

66 Earle, , ‘Female labour market’, 339–42.Google Scholar For the increase in domestic service see Earle, P., The making of the English middle class: Business, society and family life in lindan, 1660–1730 (London, 1989), 218–19.Google Scholar

67 Earle, , ‘Female labour market’, 340.Google Scholar For the growth of the silk manufacturing industry in London, see also Earle, , Making of the middle class, 1921.Google Scholar

68 See Souden, , ‘Migrants and the population structure’, 152–61.Google Scholar See also Prior, Mary, ‘Women and the urban economy: Oxford 1500–1800’, in Prior, Mary ed., Women in English society, (London, 1985), 93117.Google Scholar Note especially the evidence that widows participated in the economy most extensively when the economy was ‘stagnant’, 109.

69 Earle, , ‘Female labour market’, 342–3Google Scholar; Earle, , Making of the middle class, 167.Google Scholar Petitions sent into Christ's Hospital in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries make it clear that the position of the bereaved widow with children was especially hard. Most petitioners were widows. One bricklayer's widow from St Mary Newington described how her husband ‘died about 2 years since leaving your petitioner with the charge of 7 children to provide for by her owne hard labour of making brooms…’, Guildhall MS 12818A/1 petition of Elizabeth Benn, 6 April 1674.

70 ‘Neither men nor women worked in 1700 if they did not have to’; Earle, , ‘Female labour market’, 342.Google Scholar Married women were more likely to be without paid employment and far less likely to have been wholly maintained by their own labour than single or widowed women. Death of a husband meant a return to the labour market for many women; ibid. 337.

71 Wilson, A., ‘Illegitimacy and its implications in mid-eighteenth-century London: the evidence of the Foundling Hospital’, Continuity and Change 4, 1 (1989), 136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar The latter author believes that most foundlings were illegitimate. If remarriage opportunities did decline markedly in this period, the pressure to abandon children in times of hardship would presumably have increased, exacerbating the problem of foundlings in the capital. For evidence of a dramatic increase in the seventeenth century, see Fildes, Valerie, ‘Maternal feelings re-assessed: child abandonment and neglect in London and Westminster, 1550–1800’, in Fildes, V. ed., Women as mothers in pre-industrial England (London, 1990), 140–3.Google Scholar For a case of a widow forced to abandon a child, see ibid. 154.

72 Brodsky, , ‘London widows’, 123, 132–4.Google Scholar ‘For many widows, remarriage, all things considered, was an appropriate proposition, and it could well be an anachronistically feminist conception to assume that most widows placed a desire for economic independence well beyond their conjugal and domestic aspirations. The reverse would be more likely’ (ibid. 143).

73 See Souden, , ‘Migrants and the population structure’, 160Google Scholar, which notes how the ‘female preponderance in urban populations…and the large proportions of men in many village populations…would undoubtedly result in diminished local marriage opportunities’.

74 Figure 2 shows that male remarriage may have fallen from only 26 per cent to just 21 per cent between the early and late seventeenth century, a percentage fall of just 19 per cent, compared to 31 per cent for Stepney widows, 1617–1699 (see Table 1).

75 Grigg, , ‘Remarriage’, 196–7.Google Scholar The recent work of Pamela Sharpe finds that when the sex ratio at burial of Colyton's population showed a surplus of men in the second half of the sixteenth century, women's remarriage chances were better than men's. As the sex ratio in Colyton fell below 100 in the seventeenth century, female remarriage chances fell and those of men improved, see Sharpe, P., ‘Gender-specific demographic adjustment to changing economic circumstances: Colyton 1538–1837’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1988), 126–30, 224–8.Google Scholar

76 Schwarz, L., ‘London apprentices in the seventeenth century: some problems’, Local Population Studies 38 (1987), 21Google Scholar; Finlay, , Population and metropolis, 139–42.Google Scholar

77 Finlay, , Population and metropolis, 140–2.Google Scholar The proportion of males was greater in the wealthier city parishes, where the numbers of male apprentices would still have been considerable. For falling male apprenticeship see, in addition to the sources already cited, Beier, A. L., ‘Engine of manufacture: the trades of London’, in Finlay and Beier, Making of the metropolis, 157–8.Google Scholar

78 The register is printed. Ages are given until 1753, when the printed edition runs out.

79 Souden, , ‘Migrants and the population structure’, 158.Google Scholar

80 That is, the calendar years 1603, 1625, 1636, 1665.

81 Cambridge Group Listings, St Botolph Bishopsgate 10 per cent sample. The register of St Botolph is printed; see Hallen, A. W. C. ed., The registers of St Botolph Bishopsgate (Edinburgh, 18861895).Google Scholar

82 It has been suggested that the extensive female employment in the later seventeenth century, perhaps owes something to the absence of husbands in the army or navy: Earle, , ‘Female labour market’, 346, note 53.Google Scholar The overall sex ratio at burial from the London Bills of Mortality shows that there was a small rise from 99 to 101 in the decade 1720–1729, perhaps due to such a phenomenon, which then declined again to 98 and then 96 in the subsequent two decades: Finlay, , Population and metropolis, 142.Google Scholar

83 The sex ratios at burial for those dying between 1688 and 1714 aged 15–19, 20–24 and 25–29 were 94, 82 and 79 respectively. This compares to 86, 93 and 65 for the period 1700–1719, so that inclusion of more years of peace increases the surplus of females in the age group 25–29.

84 For the decline of male apprenticeship in Stepney, see Beier, , ‘Engine of manufacture’, 158.Google Scholar

85 The distorted sex ratio in early-nineteenth-century Bruges overshadowed the influence of occupation in explaining the marriage pattern ofthat city: Wall, R., ‘The composition of households in a population of 6 men to 10 women: south-east Bruges in 1814’, in Wall, R. ed., Family forms in historic Europe (Cambridge, 1983), 473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

86 There is a little evidence that male remarriage in London, although less common than female remarriage in the earlier seventeenth century, did not decline as quickly as that of females. See Figure 2, where the proportions of remarrying men, in the licence and Duke Place populations, fall from only 26 per cent to 25 per cent between the early seventeenth century and the 1680s and to 21 per cent in Duke Place by the end ofthat century. Male remarriage may have been particularly uncommon in Stepney, if the Shadwell figures from the early eighteenth century are anything to go by. They show that only 15 per cent of grooms were making a remarriage, compared to 31 per cent of females even by the early eighteenth century. We have no way of knowing what proportion of men were remarrying in the earlier period in Stepney.

87 Detailed work is required on this topic. For a summary of our present knowledge, see Slack, P., Poverty and policy in Tudor and Stuart England (Harlow, 1988), 170–82.Google Scholar See also for the later seventeenth century, Macfarlane, S., ‘Social policy and the poor in the later seventeenth century’, in Beier and Finlay, Making of the metropolis, 252–77.Google Scholar

88 Todd, , ‘Remarrying widow’, 79Google Scholar, ‘Regular relief provided poor widows with an effective alternative to matrimony’.

89 Slack, , Poverty and policy, 44Google Scholar, suggests that one reason for the large number of old pensioners in the later seventeenth century may have been the larger number of widows produced by falling chances of remarriage. For the remark that the orientation of Colyton's poor-relief system towards women's support most probably ‘developed as a response to the remarriage chances of poor women being virtually non-existent’ in the seventeenth and most of the eighteenth centuries, see Sharpe, , ‘Gender-specific demographic adjustment’, 227.Google Scholar

90 Note, for example, the entry in the poor-relief accounts of St Martin-in-the-Fields, 1633, payments to ‘Jane Dyale for 43 weeks at 12d a week, who then Marryed’, Westminster Public Library F360. Jane was probably of child-bearing age, she and her late husband Andrew baptized children in 1628 and July 1630.

91 See Knodel, , Demographic behavior, 174–7, 183–4.Google Scholar

92 The author is currently working on a study of remarriage intervals and courtship behaviour in Stepney as part of a forthcoming book on marriage in the capital.

93 For this in Abingdon, see Todd, , ‘Remarrying widow’, 73–5.Google Scholar For London, see Brodsky, , ‘London widows’, 144–5Google Scholar, who notes that such clauses, usually designed to protect the rights of surviving children, were a small minority (ibid. 145). Such wills remained unusual in the later seventeenth century, amongst the middling sort: Earle, , Making of the middle class, 321.Google Scholar

94 Todd, , ‘Remarrying widow’, 76–7Google Scholar, discusses Austen's case. Changing attitudes to remarriage are suggested by the content of some sermons in the later-seventeenth-century capital. For the sermon heard by Pepys, see Latham, R. and Matthews, W. eds., The diary of Samuel Pepys (London, 1970), i, 60.Google Scholar My thanks are due to Dr Derek Keene for drawing my attention to this fascinating reference. Samuel Pepys, widowed at the age of only 36 in 1669, and surely a most eligible catch in the London marriage market, never remarried.

95 The Act lapsed in 1706. For the clauses taxing all bachelors and widowers, see 6 & 7 Will & Mar. c. 6, VII–VIII. Almsmen widowers were exempt. Extra penalties were to be paid by those of higher social rank, under clause IX, thus those of real estate of at least £600 would be liable to an extra charge of 5s per year. For the circumstances surrounding the Act: see Brooks, C., ‘Projecting, political arithmetic and the act of 1695’, English Historical Review 97 (1982), 3153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

96 The petitions are printed. See The petition of the ladies of London and Westminster, to the honourable house for husbands, London: Printed for Mary Want-man, the fore-maid of the petitioners (London, 1693), in The Harleian Miscellany, X (1810), 166–70; The petition of the widows, in and about London and Westminster, for a redress of their grievances, London: printed for the use of the Wide -- o's (London, 1693), in The Harleian Miscellany, ibid., 170–5. The joke was continued in subsequent petitions, An humble remonstrance of the balchelors, printed for the ‘bookselling Batchelors’ and A new bill drawn up by a committee of grievances, in reply to the ladies and balchelors petition and remonstrances, in The Harleian Miscellany, ibid. 175–183.

97 Petition of the widows, 172.Google Scholar

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