Sunday, 19 July 2009

Research Day

So I set out today to research medieval women and what rights they did and didn't have as part of the background of one of my characters. What I've found out is it's a complicated and confusing subject. What's worse upon asking on a forum I got told I was wrong about the stuff I thought I knew. Which is possible - but the person quoted no sources where I at least do have them (albeit mostly from the web). I've asked for sources but no response yet.

The things I'm trying to check and find out are:

  1. If an English medieval noblewoman's husband died and she had an infant son would she hold the land until he came of age? My sources which include various websites and a friend who's studied medieval women at college said that she would certainly hold her dowry lands in her own right and might be appointed guardian of the male heir - but this varied with local custom in England. Person on forum said no a male relative would have administered all lands. Of course they also said Elizabeth I was on the throne in the 1700s (she lived 7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603 so that would be quite the achievement :-P).
  2. How likely was said Noblewoman to be literate? Here I concede it's less than I thought. I was confusing sources about the fourteenth and fifteenth Centuries with sources about the Twelfth. It's still not impossible - Marie de France, Heloise and a number of other famous medieval women were literate. But even male literacy hadn't taken off at this point to the degree I thought. I'm currently looking at a book about the rise of literacy in medieval England on Amazon and trying to decide whether to buy it. I'm definitely NOT buying the book I found on medieval women because it's £40 for a 256 page book and that's just silly. I may - however - visit the library and borrow it.
See this is why I don't really like researching - I always end up confused. I'm currently thinking of moving the character's life as a human up to the fourteenth century. It makes her literacy more likely (though I'm musing on how important that is), but would cause different backstory problems. It'll also make her younger in the present day (she's a vampire), but that hardly matters. I guess even more research is needed.

Anyone got any good resourses to link me to on the medieval period - especially women? I'd be grateful.

1 comment:

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