Medieval Single Women: The Politics of Social Classification in Late Medieval England

Medieval Single Women: The Politics of Social Classification in Late Medieval England

by Cordelia Beattie
     
 

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The single woman is a troubling and disruptive category. Does it denote all unmarried women, therefore creating a group which every female was part of at some stage in her life? Or, were the categories "maiden" and "widow" so culturally significant in late medieval England that "single woman" was a residual category for women seen as

Overview

The single woman is a troubling and disruptive category. Does it denote all unmarried women, therefore creating a group which every female was part of at some stage in her life? Or, were the categories "maiden" and "widow" so culturally significant in late medieval England that "single woman" was a residual category for women seen as anomalous? Was the category "single man" used in an equivalent way and, if not, why? This study offers a way into the complex process of social classification in late medieval England.

All societies use classifications in order to understand and impose order. In this book, Cordelia Beattie views classification as a political act, an act of power: those classifying must make choices about which divisions are most important or about who falls into which category, and such choices have repercussions. Defining how a group or an individual should be labelled, means variables such as social status, gender, or age, are prioritized. Rather than isolate gender as a variable, this book examines how it relates to other social cleavages. Using a variety of approaches, from social and cultural history, to gender history, and medieval studies, its original methodology offers an innovative approach to a range of historical texts, from pastoral manuals to tax returns, and guild registers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Beattie's book provides a vital starting point for discussion and should be applauded for its resourcefulness and creativity."—Sara M. Butler, Speculum

"This book is well worth reading for its many insights into the complex and multifaceted set of cultural values surrounding single women. The writing is clear and direct and the scholarship on which the book rests is thorough and well substantiated. Readers with a special interest in medieval society or late medieval England will find much of interest in Beattie's analysis, and the book demonstrates that much can be known about the lives of medieval single women and also suggests that much more still remains to be learned."—James Masschaele, American Historical Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199283415
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
10/25/2007
Pages:
200
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.80(d)

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