Synopses & Reviews
Portraits of aristocratic women from the Yorkist and Tudor periods reveal elaborately clothed and bejeweled nobility, exemplars of their families' wealth. Unlike their male counterparts, their sitters have not been judged for their professional accomplishments. In this groundbreaking study, Barbara J. Harris argues that the roles of aristocratic wives, mothers, and widows constituted careers for women that had as much public and political significance and were as crucial for the survival and prosperity of their families and class as their husband's careers. Women, Harris demonstrates, were trained from an early age to manage their families' property and households; arrange the marriages and careers of their children; create, sustain, and exploit the client-patron relationships that were an essential element in politics at the regional and national levels; and, finally, manage the transmission and distribution of property from one generation to another, since most wives outlived their husbands.
English Aristocratic Women unveils the lives of noblewomen whose historical influence has previously been dismissed, as well as those who became favorites at the court of Henry VIII. Through extensive archival research of documents belonging to more than twelve hundred families, Harris paints a collective portrait of upper-class women of this period. By recognizing the full significance of the aristocratic women's careers, this book reinterprets the politics and gender relations of early modern England. Barbara J. Harris is Professor of History and Women's Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her previous works include Edward Stafford, Third Duke of Buckingham, 1478-1521.
Harris's work is comprehensive in every respect, and details virtually every possible experience that aristocratic women might have had in the late Yorkist and early Tudor periods. She is especially adept at making these women appear, as they were, human, with real-life joys, sorrows, and challenges. It is this dimension that makes Harris's work especially distinctive."--Sixteenth Century Journal
"...a magisterial work..."English Aristocratic Women is now the standard work on the subject, and all scholars interested in late medieval and early modern gender and elite cultures will benefit from Harris's careful research and bold conceptualizations."--Shannon McSheffrey, Concordia University
"an urbane and absorbing read ... demonstrates Harris's command of her rich materials and her careful analysis of them."-- Albion
"We should all welcome Professor Harris's fine study of English aristocratic women of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. At every stage the book has interesting and fresh things to say. She gets closer than anybody else ever will to painting these women as recognizable and even likable people."--English Historical Review
"Prodigiously researched and wonderfully detailed study."-- Renaissance Quarterly
"for aristocratic women during one century of late-medieval English history - she paints a composite portrait of glorious, dizzying complexity . . . likely to remain the definitive study on the subject for a long while."-- Speculum
"In its extraordinary archival grounding as well as its lucid exposition of the characteristics of this intersection of rank and gender, this book is indispensible reading for social historians of all stripes."--Choice
This work, based on archival research, combines a collective portrait of aristocratic women with an analysis of the particular, class-specific form of patriarchy and gender relations that flourished among the upper classes in Yorkist and early Tudor England.
About the Author
Barbara J. Harris
is Professor of History and Women's Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her previous works include Edward Stafford, Third Duke of Buckingham, 1478-1521