The Fourth Estate: A History of Women in the Middle Ages


Did women really constitute a 'fourth estate' in medieval society and, if so, in what sense? In this wide-ranging study Shulamith Shahar considers this and the wider question of varying attitudes to women and their status in Western Europe between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries. She draws a cohesive picture of women in a range of situations: nuns and married women, peasants and noblewomen, townswomen and women involved in heretical movements and witchcraft. The Fourth Estate has become a classic in the study of women in the Middle Ages. In her new introduction, Shahar looks at new developments in medieval women's history since the first edition.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • London
Publication year:
  • 2003
  • Revised