Daughters of London

Inheriting Opportunity in the Late Middle Ages


In historical records, women appear as widows, sometimes as wives or singlewomen, but one thing they had in common was they all were daughters. Through an examination of the Husting wills, Kate Staples focuses on daughters in the late medieval capital and their chances to own, rent, and manage property. These daughters were provided opportunities to be active economic agents in a world often described as hostile to women. Daughters of London also considers parents’ influence through their bequests to daughters and the visualization of daughters’ household spaces that these bequests allow. By focusing on daughterhood, and particularly urban daughters’ experiences of inheritance, we can refocus the lens through which we see and understand women’s lives in the medieval past

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Kate Kelsey Staples, Ph.D. (2006) in History, University of Minnesota, is Assistant Professor of History at West Virginia University.
Acknowledgments ... ix
List of Figures and Tables ... xi
List of Abbreviations ... xiii

1: Urban Daughters, their Opportunities, and London Wills ... 1
Women, Family, and Inheritance ... 7
Daughters and Burgage Tenure in Late Medieval Towns ... 10
Wills and Social History ... 13
The Husting Wills ... 18
Inheriting Opportunity in London: A New Framework ... 30

2: Testators and their Influence in Late Medieval London ... 33
Types of Bequests in the Husting Wills ... 43
Conditions Placed on Bequests ... 51
The Influence of Gender on Bequests ... 55
The Influence of Occupation on Bequests ... 63
Conclusions ... 69

3: Prospects of Power: Inheriting Real Estate and Real Opportunity ... 71
Legacies of Real Estate ... 71
Types of Inheritance ... 82
Presence of Siblings ... 98
Change Over Time ... 100
Conclusions ... 109

4: Envisioning Daughters’ Lives Through Movable Legacies ... 111
Money and Annuities ... 114
The Legacies of Movable Goods ... 119
The Meanings of Goods ... 126
Function and Meanings of Domestic Space ... 134
Sibling Rivalry? ... 140
Change Over Time ... 141
Conclusions ... 145

Chapter Five: Reinterpreting Daughters’ Economic Power in Late Medieval London ... 147
Studying Women and the Economy ... 148
Considering Women as Investors and Managers ... 152
Concentrating on Women in Urban England ... 158
Considering London Women ... 160
Thinking Anew About Women’s Experiences ... 164

Appendix One: Testators ... 171
Appendix Two: Recipients ... 179

Academic libraries, specialists, graduate and undergraduate students interested in women's, gender, and urban history of medieval and early modern Europe.