Chapter

Dealing with Death

Eleanor Hubbard

in City Women

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609345
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739088 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609345.003.0008
Dealing with Death

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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This chapter discusses widowhood, remarriage, and old age in early modern London. It uses quantitative data to demonstrate that London widows remarried rapidly. City law treated widows relatively favorably in terms of inheritance, and remarriage – with the accompanying horizontal wealth transfers – was an accepted part of London’s commercial culture. Only elderly widows were unlikely to remarry. Remarrying widows demonstrated a preference for younger, bachelor bridegrooms, perhaps because they hoped to obtain the benefits of marriage without the disadvantages of subjection by marrying poorer men. These marriages were risky, however, as poor bridegrooms might attempt to assert household mastery. This chapter also argues that widows who remained single and independent posed no threat to patriarchal order, and discusses their survival strategies. It concludes by examining the stresses of old age and physical decline.

Keywords: widowhood; remarriage; marriage preferences; courtship; inheritance; customary law; widows; patriarchy; old age; death

Chapter.  19630 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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