Brideprice, Dowry, and other Marital Assigns

Susan Mosher Stuard

in The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe

Published in print August 2013 | ISBN: 9780199582174
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191749919 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Brideprice, Dowry, and other Marital Assigns

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  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, morgengabe, a husband's gift to his wife marking the formal consummation of marriage, was replaced in Italian, southern French, and Spanish towns with Roman dos or dowry, a gift from a bride's family that was her inheritance (legitim). In time, this momentous change spread north beyond the Alps. The resulting dotal regime abetted the monetization of the economy and placed increased authority in the hands of husbands, who managed dowry although they did not own it. A family's honor and prestige rode on grants of dowry. Disputes, lawsuits, and consilia (legal opinions) highlight the consequences of investing sums that were granted for daughters' dowries. In 1425 Florence created the Monte delle Doti to invest family funds for future dowries. Thereafter government finances were entwined with families' finances. To justify separating women's ownership of dowry from men's management, Aristotelian principles of women's incapacity were invoked.

Keywords: dowry (Roman dos); brideprice; morgengabe or morgincap; Monte delle Doti 1425; guardianship (mundualdus); canon law; statute law; incapacity arguments

Article.  7880 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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