Carolingian Domesticities

Rachel Stone

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

Carolingian Domesticities

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


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Carolingian ideas of "home" and "family" encompassed a wide range of meanings from physical buildings to kin and free and unfree dependents. Kinship ties played a vital role, both socially and politically, and marriage practices reflected that; Carolingian reforms respected parents' strategies concerning their children's marriages. The Frankish economy was structured around nuclear households, from peasant tenancies to the huge estates presided over by noble men and women. Male and female activities in both production and consumption were partially, but not completely gender-specific. Dowries provided some economic independence for women, but female wealth often depended on contingent factors such as family size and the attitudes of male relatives. The ordered conjugal household was an important image in Carolingian moral thought, with married women holding a subordinate, but honored position. Frankish ideology focused more on elite women's role in the management of dependents and social networks than on purely "housewifely" activities.

Keywords: patriarchy; masculinity; marriage; bipartite estates; conjugal family; morality; dowries; Charlemagne; Einhard; Francia

Article.  8282 words. 

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

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