This well-crafted volume of ten essays is an important contribution to the growing body of research on women and law in England the pre-modern period. Each essay examines a different aspect of women’s interactions with the law (broadly defined and encompassing both secular and ecclesiastical courts) and, as suggested in the title, foregrounds their agency.
The history of single women in pre-modern Europe has begun to attract a good amount of attention in the last decade. Thanks to historians such as Judith Bennett, Kim Phillips, Ruth Mazo Karras and P. J. P.
Historians of early modern marriage have made much use of court records in uncovering the matrimonial difficulties of our ancestors.
Briony McDonagh estimates that over 10 per cent of land in Georgian Britain was owned by female landowners. Assuming her sample of 250,000 acres to be representative of broader patterns and trends, McDonagh surmises that ‘somewhere in excess of 3 million acres in England were owned by women in the later eighteenth century and more than 6 million acres in Great Britain as a whole’ (p. 27).
In recent decades, the fields of women's and gender studies have rapidly expanded. In trying to understand women's roles in past societies, historians have paid particular attention to issues surrounding marriage, family, and the household.
The Times in its editorial of 11 February 1857 opined 'It is a terrible incident of our social existence that the resources for gaining a livelihood left open to women are so few. ...
In early 1780 the rebuilding of Newgate Prison was very nearly complete. Thirty years of debating, campaigning, and planning had finally resulted in the construction of a new and improved jail, which would stand as a permanent monument to England’s commitment to prison reform.
The Romantic image of the starving artist painting in a threadbare garret and refusing to bend his talent to please a Philistine public could not be further from the artists and their studios considered in Louise Campbell’s Studio Lives.