Commerce, credit and coverture
Women and debt litigation
in Medieval women and urban justice
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This chapter examines women’s involvement in commercial litigation through analysis of debt pleas from the three towns of Nottingham, Chester and Winchester. It uses debt pleas to offer a new insight into women’s work and trading relationships and the ways in which this brought them into contact with the law, as both plaintiffs and defendants, at different stages of their lives, and at all levels within the local economy. Debt pleas were one of the key ways in which women engaged in litigation within medieval towns, making their role within these pleas key to understanding women’s experiences of the law more broadly. The chapter analyses women’s involvement in debt pleas through both quantitative and qualitative analysis, tracing changes over time in levels of women’s commercial litigation as well as examining the nature of these cases as illustrated through numerous examples. It also deals in detail with the status of married women in these pleas, contrasting the extent to which they were able to take legal action alongside their husbands in the courts of different towns, and how this developed or changed over time.

Medieval women and urban justice

Commerce, crime and community in England, 1300–1500

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