Women, labour and land in the late medieval Low Countries: coastal Flanders, c. 1275 - c. 1575.

01 October 2015 → 30 September 2019
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Evolutionary biology
    • General biology
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Social medical sciences
women labour
Project description

My proposal deals with the economic activities of women in the countryside of coastal Flanders, between c. 1275 and c. 1575. Recently, scholars in economic history have focused on the opportunities for women offered by the rise of labour markets in North-western Europe during the late middle ages. However, scholars specialized in women’s history emphasized the persistent cultural, institutional or technological constraints that women experienced in the past. In this proposal, I want to study the relationship between the impact of the development towards agrarian capitalism and the economic opportunities for women. Because this development was characterized by the rise of free markets for labour and for land, I particularly focus on the activities of women on these markets. Contrary to previous research, that sometimes focused too much on the bare wages of women and this on a national scale, I will examine the female employment characteristics in the context of the regional rural economy, differentiating between the various categories of working women. Moreover, I will include land as source of income. My research uses exceptionally rich sources, preserved for a region where women enjoyed more legal freedom and more fundamental heritage rights than in other regions. This proposal wants to contribute to the current debate about women and economic growth in pre-industrial society, in which historians have indicated the urgent need of new empirical findings on a regional scale.