In the Maelstrom of the Market: Women and the Birth of the European Market Economy (seminar)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a spring faculty weekend seminar held from March 4 to March 5, 2005.

In two days of intensive discussion, this faculty weekend seminar examined structural changes affecting gender relations during the long period from 1300 to 1700. The seminar reposes Joan Kelly's famous question “Did women have a Renaissance?” by focusing on the explosion of market production and its role in disrupting traditional practices and representations of gender. A group of twelve to sixteen faculty members contributed their own perspectives to a reassessment of such issues as: commercialization’s effect on the sexual division of labor and the new visibility of labor in discourses about trade and the economy; changes in marriage patterns and family forms, along with the attendant pressures on conjugality; shifting patterns of inheritance and marital property arrangements and their effects on women’s property rights; and material culture itself, proposing that, as things acquired new, more powerful meanings in this age, women’s attachments to things came under ruthless cultural and legal scrutiny.

Director: Martha Howell is Miriam Champion Professor of History at Columbia University. She is the author of The Marriage Exchange: Property, Social Place, and Gender in Cities of the Low Countries, 1300–1500 (1998), Women, Production, and Patriarchy in Late Medieval Cities (1986), and coauthor with Walter Prevenier of From Reliable Sources: an Introduction to Historical Methods (2002).