Women in England c. 1275–1525

Documentary sources

This book demonstrates that the discussion of non-aristocratic women can be securely grounded in archival documentation. It explores, with sensitivity and sophistication, the relationship between the picture which emerges from such sources and the literary and theological perceptions of womankind. The book provides a collection of documentary material, much of it previously unpublished, and guides the reader in the techniques needed to glean rich evidence of contemporary behaviour and assumptions from what can seem, at first sight, unpromisingly austere sources. It also demonstrates the variety of evidence that survives of English women in all walks of life from the time of Edward I to the eve of the Reformation. The book then provides substantial overview of current thinking about English medieval women below the level of the greater aristocracy. It also explores the life-cycle themes of childhood, adolescence, married life, widowhood and old age. The book then moves on to examine such topics as work in town and country, prostitution, the law, recreation and devotion. There is an element of caprice and artificiality in trying to divide the lives of medieval women under particular heads. This is especially true of the label 'devotion'. The culture of later medieval England was a Christian culture and Christian ideology permeated every aspect of life. The book recovers the experience of ordinary medieval women.

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