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

By Shulamith Shahar; Chaya Galai | Go to book overview

Preface

This book was first published in English in 1983. It is difficult to overestimate subsequent development in the research of its subject: medieval women (eleventh—fifteenth centuries). The history of women and gender as a category of analysis have become a mainstream in medieval research. Thus on the subject of every single chapter of this book, from chapter 2 (‘Public and Legal Rights’) to chapter 8 (‘Witches and the Heretical Movements’), tens of articles have appeared as well as many books. Some of the studies are linked to the historiographical questions that have emerged in the study of medieval social and cultural history in general. Many others bear the fruitful impact of both feminist and literary theory. Collections of women’s writings have been published in modern critical editions and in translations. More sources about women or that include women have appeared in print and have been studied. New interpretations of well-known texts have been advanced, and studies based on new archival research have appeared. In this preface it is impossible either to survey the content of all the work that has been done since the publication of this book, or to do justice to the new understandings that have evolved. What follows is a presentation of only some of the new trends in research, and reference to a restricted number of studies by way of example on the topics of some of the chapters of the book.

An important issue that has been addressed in some studies and is still open to further research is that of regional differences. Regional studies as such are not new. Through them we know that there were differences in household structure, inheritance law, economic systems

-xi-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations viii
  • Preface xi
  • Foreword xvii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Public and Legal Rights 11
  • 3 - Nuns 22
  • 4 - Married Women 65
  • 5 - Women in the Nobility 126
  • 6 - Townswomen 174
  • 7 - Women in the Peasantry 220
  • 8 - Witches and the Heretical Movements 251
  • Notes 281
  • Index 344
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