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Women and leasehold in rural Flanders, c. 1290 to c. 1570

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 March 2019

Lies Vervaet
Affiliation:
Ghent University
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E-mail address:

Abstract

Research has emphasised the stability in female landholding between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, despite demographic shocks and fundamental economic changes. However, in this period, a new type of land exploitation emerges: leasehold. This article wants to introduce a gender perspective into the history of leasehold. It investigates women’s activities on the lease market in late medieval and sixteenth-century Flanders, a region where short-term and competitive leasehold spread early and widely. An analysis of the actual practice, making use of landlords’ manuals and accounts, demonstrates women’s decreasing participation at the lease market. Moreover, their marital status increasingly mattered: from the beginning of the fifteenth century only widows could hold land. This article also demonstrates that, next to marital status, the size of the holding had a marked influence on women’s opportunities. Finally, these results invite us to rethink the grounds of women’s growing participation at the labour market in post-Black Death Europe, since especially single women lost access to land, particularly to land offered on the lease market.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© Cambridge University Press 2019 

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References

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47 In 1337, 27 out of a total of 154 registered tenants were women, in 1351, 12 out of a total of 102 registered tenants were women, and in 1369, 10 out of a total 138 were women; ASSDB ASJH, 1337: D.2.2, Register St John’s hospital; 1351: B.1, Manual Zuienkerke; 1369: B.5, Manual Zuienkerke.

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53 Ibid., pp. 72–5, 132–3.

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54 Ibid., pp. 3–4, 123–4, 130–2.

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59 For all large farms, between twenty and thirty in total, the names of the successive tenants and the relationship between them were put in a database. For the small plots of land, I focused on parts of the estate: the area around the village of Zuienkerke and the around the village of Schoondijke. The preservation of several fourteenth-century rentals allows us to compare the names of tenants through time: 1310: SAB, Aanwinsten, no. 689; 1337: ASSDB ASJH, D.2.2, Register St John’s hospital, 1337; B.1, Manual (Zuienkerke 1351), B.2, Manual (Schoondijke 1352), B.3, Manual (Schoondijke 1361), B.5, Manual (Zuienkerke 1369). From the 1420s onwards, annual accounts allow us to trace every single tenant, year after year. Every ten years, all tenants were recorded in a database. To be able to follow tenants, I made one sample for every ten consecutive years (since lease contracts never lasted longer than ten years): 1443–53, 1493–1503, 1533–43, and finally 1558–68.

60 Franklin, ‘Peasant widows’ “liberation”’, 191–2.

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67 ASSDB ASJH, D.7: Goed te Stalhille farm: ‘dies es voorwoorde dat de voors. weduwe de husinghen van de cleen stedekin te weten de schuere zal te ghereecx houdene op huers selfs cost mids dat zij die ghebruucken … dat de voors. pachtegge binnen hueren pachte niet breken en zal moghen’.

68 ASSDB ASJH, Account 1547–8.

69 ASSDB ASJH, Pacquets, C. Box Scueringhe, account bursar, 1532–3 and 1533–4; SAB, Aanwinsten, 682: account bursar, 1536–7.

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74 Vervaet, Goederenbeheer, pp. 233–9, 514–21.

75 van Cruyningen, Behoudend, p. 274.

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79 Franklin, ‘Peasants widows’ “liberation”’, 194.

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81 Whittle, ‘Rural Economies’, pp. 316–319.

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