The Marriage Exchange
Property, Social Place, and Gender in Cities of the Low Countries, 1300-1550
Based on extensive research in this archive, this book reveals how these documents were produced in a centuries-long effort to regulate—and ultimately to redefine—property and gender relations. At the center of the transformation was a shift from a marital property regime based on custom to one based on contract. In the former, a widow typically inherited her husband's property; in the latter, she shared it with or simply held it for his family or offspring. Howell asks why the law changed as it did and assesses the law's effects on both social and gender meanings but she insists that the reform did not originate in general dissatisfaction with custom or a desire to disempower widows. Instead, it was born in a complex economic, social and cultural history during which Douaisiens gradually came to think about both property and gender in new ways.