Women and Land: Aristrocratic Ownership of Property in Early Modern England
Anastasia B. Crosswhite
In this Note, Anastasia Crosswhite examines land ownership of elite women in early modern England. Studying property disputes within two of the richest aristocratic families in early modern England, the Manners and the Talbots, Crosswhite fills a gap in English historical literature and also complicates the common scholarly view that the early modern English legal and social systems rendered female control and ownership of land a rarity. Although finding that the legal system generally discouraged female property ownership, Crosswhite also discovers that the women of the Manners and Talbot families did own, manage, and control land. In addition, the legal system itself provided the opportunity to do so, for it routinely placed the control, albeit often temporary, of land in women’s hands. Yet these opportunities had to be exploited by individual historical actors, and Crosswhite concludes that the men and women of the Manners and Talbot families, being able manipulators of legal and social structures, did so to the benefit of themselves and their families.