Law, Land, and Family: Aristocratic Inheritance in England, 1300 to 1800 / Edition 1

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The author presents a fresh interpretation of the history of inheritance among the English gentry and aristocracy. In a work that recasts both the history of real property law and the history of the family, she argues that one of the principal and determinative features of upper-class inheritance was the virtual exclusion of females from land holding.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
[A] significant and highly original study.


It will be quite impossible for social or legal historians in the future to ignore the arguments presented here.

Times Literary Supplement

This is an admirable study, lucidly and economically argued.

Cambridge Law Journal

[M]akes a highly technical and complex topic accessible to a wide audience and she does so with a timely twist.

Law and History Review

Ingeniously original, Spring's work is sure to generate a great deal of rethinking .

Morris S. Arnold, United States Court of Appeals

Argues that under traditional common law, women would have inherited or held 40% of the land in England by the 18th century, and that it was at least partly to prevent such a disaster that the aristocracy and gentry fought so hard to introduce changes in inheritance. Shows how the common law was gradually nullified by the entail, the use, and the strict settlement; and balances the long-term effects on land-use patterns seen by modern historians with a consideration of the immediate effects on the family members. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807846421
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 2/26/1997
  • Series: Studies in Legal History Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 212
  • Product dimensions: 6.17 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Eileen Spring is an independent scholar who lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Heiress-at-Law 8
2 The Widow 39
3 Younger Children 66
4 The Pattern Considered 92
5 The Strict Settlement 123
6 Theories of the Family 148
7 Conclusion 181
App. A Abstract of a Strict Settlement by Orlando Bridgman 187
App. B Two Examples of Settlements to the Separate Use of a Married Woman 190
App. C The Trust for Raising Portions: An Example of the Form Usual in Eighteenth-Century and Nineteenth-Century Settlements 191
Index 193
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