Based on a solid foundation of archival research that ranges from tax rolls to notarial records, this study adds an important chapter to our understanding of women in pre-industrial Europe. Through a rigorous examination of primary documents peculiar to eighteenth-century Brittany, the author demonstrates the difficulties engendered in broad generalities about European women, and makes a strong case for the necessity for historians to account for regional differences in women's experiences. In particular, Nancy Locklin makes a compelling argument for the need to incorporate a broader basis upon which women attained their identity. Indeed, Locklin rightly contends that most women in pre-industrial European societies were recognized (and perhaps saw themselves) through a variety of identities over the course of their lives, depending on their age, familial connections, marital status, and the type of work they performed, and that often these identities overlapped. Locklin also shows the extent to which legal and ideological prescriptions painted a relatively negative picture of women's status, but that a close examination of women's participation in family, community, and commercial affairs reveals a much more complex and divergent reality.
Contents: Introduction; The women of Brittany; Work and identity; Women under Breton law; Social life and honor; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.
About the Author: Nancy Locklin is Associate Professor of History at Maryville College, USA.
Reviews: ‘Locklin has produced a well-researched, clearly written, thorough analysis of women's work in Brittany.’ Reviews in History
‘As a whole, this book offers a detailed perspective on women's work and identity in eighteenth-century Brittany. The author's careful research opens up a new window into the lives of Breton women, and offers valuable insights into the economic history of early modern French women.’ Labour/Le Travail
‘Nancy Locklin's detailed and innovative study of the lives of women in Brittany in the eighteenth century will appeal to a range of readers, including those interested in gender history, local and regional history, legal history and French history. … This book is a welcome addition to regional studies of women's work and lives in early modern Europe. …this is undoubtedly an interesting and valuable exploration of the complexity of women's lives in the past.’
Agricultural History Review
‘Nancy Locklin’s Women’s Work and Identity in Eighteenth-Century Brittany is an important monograph in helping to establish a portrait of early modern France. … Locklin has effectively mined the archives using intelligent suppositions to fill out what the clues suggest. She also reveals the lacks, lacunae, and biases in her sources in an effort to resist claiming more than she can reasonably assert. With this material, she has been able to give us a tantalizing view of the possibilities and choices of women in the past.’ H-France Review
‘This is an informative and well-researched investigation of women’s lives, carefully located within the context of broader debates concerning the nature of women’s history and the economic and social structures that shaped women’s work. … There can be no doubts concerning Locklin’s competence in the field of women’s history, and this stimulating study does present a number of intriguing perspectives on the nature of women’s economic activities.’ English Historical Review
‘Locklin has penned an exemplary work of scholarly research that, through its readable style and clearly stated objectives, will appeal to both academics and lay readers.’ Sixteenth Century Journal
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