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198 Reviews from the writings by John S. Moore (1989), David Pelteret (1995), J. Jesch (1991), Pauline Stafford (1989) and Christine Fell (1984). In this as in so many other matters, the writer of the guide would seem to have succeeded admirably in her chosen task of arousing the reader's avid curiosity. Further the sectionalising of areas in the various paragraphs should make research projects open up in the particular area of interest to the beginning reader or researcher. The bold general areas of religious, political and economic life in the periods c. 600-1250 and 1250-1530 are followed by similar treatment of matters such as women's place in the economy, degrees of formal education, religious experience and autonomy, legal rights, patronage, labour services, punishments of sexual offences, and, in much detail, the activities and opportunities that befell and were seized by widows - as attested by various documents. In short, these guides may be held to continue the fine introductory handbooks in the humanities by the same publisher a century ago, with the very definite bonus of a most comprehensive bibliography. Mavis E. Mate, the Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oregon, who published in 1998 Daughters, Wives and Widows after the Black Death: Women in Sussex, 1350-1530, has again shown herself to be an excellent teacher, choosing word, observation and example with the greatest care and relevance. This is, indeed, a vade mecum for the curious reader as well as the medieval specialist. J. S. Ryan School ofEnglish, Communication and Theatre University ofNew England Mendelson, Sara and Patricia Crawford, Women in Early Modern England 15501720 , Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1998; pp. xviii, 480; 49 b/w illustrations; RRP£25 (cloth), £14.99 (paper); ISBN 0198201249 (cloth), 019820812X (paper). The 15 years of collaborative research and writing which went into this su volume are everywhere apparent. Mendelson and Crawford have assembled a formidable array of materials which shed light on the hitherto somewhat obscure subject of Early Modern women. M a n y of these sources are fragmentary or difficult to interpret, and the authors stress the importance of 'discovering as much as possible about the circumstances in which the documents were created and preserved' (p. 9). The first chapter covers the contexts for understanding women, Reviews 199 including medical discourses, religious teachings, the law and its operation, the concept of citizenship, and ideas which were popular among 'ordinary' people, including stereotypes. What clearly emerges is the extent to which contradictory views were in some cases almost equally prominently espoused, and the way in which exceptional cases, such as the four female monarchs ofthe period, stretched the boundaries of most definitions of 'women'. The second and third chapters cover the life-cycle of women; childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Interesting differences emerge across social and economic boundaries. The least information is available for the earliest years of girls' lives, and for the lives of the poorest women. Important subjects include the incidence of violence and sexual abuse in the lives of female servants and apprentices by masters, and the distinctly female experience of marriage, which the authors characterize as probably 'a violent discontinuity' at odds with the masculine view ofthe bride's 'smooth transfer from paternal to spousal authority' (p. 129). Evidence of wifely insubordination came from masculine sources, and there were two ideal images ofa wife; the companion and the subordinate. Some women writers argued that the subordination of wives made their position identical to that of slaves, and Mendelson and Crawford argue that a husband's power over his wife was such that he could make her life unendurable. Maternity and the lives of those w h o chose to remain single are also covered, as are widowhood, old age, and death. The conclusion reached is that gender, class and age were interacting at every stage of a woman's life. Chapter Four, 'Female Culture', is probably the most contentious in the book. This is because few Early Modern scholars have acknowledged that a distinctly female culture existed. The authors consider culture to be 'a system of shared meanings within which people lived their lives' (p. 202). Mendelson and Crawford analyse the areas of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 198-201
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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