Fully-funded PhD opportunity in the Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Science, University of Hull
Project Title: Maid, wife and widow: women’s life-course and property ownership, 1550-1800.
Supervisors: Dr. Briony McDonagh (Geography, University of Hull) and Dr. Amanda Capern (History, University of Hull).
This project explores the impact of life-course and marital status on women’s experience as property owners, a topic which has so far received little in the way of sustained academic attention. Erickson (1995) and others have demonstrated that women across the social hierarchy actually controlled significant amounts of land in early modern and 18th-century England, and this despite the restrictions imposed by coverture and primogeniture. We know, moreover, that many women were actively involved in the transmission and management of landed property – and this not only as widows, but also as wives and single women (McDonagh 2009; Capern 2002, 2008/10; Spicksley 2012; Larsen 2007). Yet we know surprisingly little about the impact age, health, maternity and even marital status had on women’s experiences of property ownership and management, nor about how women’s involvement in estate management varied over life-course. How did the experience of young unmarried female landowners differ from that of their married sisters and widowed mothers? Was it possible to juggle both child-rearing and estate management? And how did age, gender and life experience affect women’s attitudes to risk and decisions regarding the transmission of their property?
The project addresses these and other related research questions through a long dureé analysis, drawing on a range of archival materials from county record offices and national archival repositories in order to critically examine how age, gender, maternity and marital status impacted on women’s involvement in and attitudes to land and property in England in the period c.1550-1800. In doing so, the project brings together two distinct literatures and approaches – on early modern women and property, and on women’s experiences of motherhood, widowhood and other key life-stages – in order to reflect critically on women’s place within, and contribution to, early modern society. It thus adds value to an exciting new field of research as well as contributes to wider cultural debates about women’s place in the environmental, social and economic history of the English countryside.
Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree in Geography, History or a related discipline. A master’s degree and experience working with archival materials is desirable.
Informal enquiries about the studentship can be directed to Briony McDonagh (firstname.lastname@example.org). More information about the Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Science can be found here and about the Department of History here. To apply, go to the University of Hull’s studentships pages here.