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Recent explorations of gender and household space have convincingly demonstrated that domestic space cannot easily be separated into feminine and masculine spheres. Research on masculinity and the political conceptualization of early modern households has highlighted the importance of dwellings as signifiers of identity for both men and women. Protestant writers employed the male body as a metaphor for the house. Invasions of household space were analogous to an attack upon patriarchal order and dominance, and the honour and reputation of the husband and father. Just as the dwelling house informed and signified manliness, female honour and reputation was also bound up with cultural discourses concerning the moral worth of the household, nourished and sustained by the ‘good housewife’. Women, especially married women, assumed a significant role in demarcating and reinforcing the physical and conceptual boundaries of the home. The expanding body of research in this field invites a more nuanced approach to understanding married relations based upon patterns of integration rather than separation. An assault on the material and moral worth of the household amounted to a violation of the reputation and authority of both husband and wife.
Metaphors of household and dwelling in patriarchal discourse suggest stability, rootedness and a deep temporal attachment to place.
In recent years, theories of landscape and place have encouraged greater understanding of how previous societies gave meaning to the visible traces of the past on the ground. It is no longer sufficient to categorise monuments, earthwork remains and entire landscapes within the chronological parameters set by modern preoccupations with periodisation. Proponents of this recent view emphasise the centrality of material evidence for understanding the workings of memory and formation of social identity. In the light of this perspective, one of the most striking yet often overlooked features of estate maps, dating from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, are the traces of an apparent pre-Reformation spiritual landscape. Maps can reveal the existence of holy wells and monuments, together with a network of minor place-names alluding to former pilgrimage routes, religious buildings and structures. The number of references to extant medieval wayside and boundary crosses on Norfolk estate maps is particularly notable and provides the subject of this chapter.
Religious monuments of medieval origin are typically employed by historians to illustrate the process of religious reform and the importance of iconoclasm in providing a tangible rupture with the past. Intended to dissolve spiritual meaning and significance by leaving plain, unadorned and irrelevant stones, such actions were deeply symbolic.
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