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Bibliophile price: £7.50
Inequality was a fact of life for medieval women and generally the law was pro-male in every respect. Educational possibilities were limited and even a woman's personal possessions could not be bequeathed without specific permission from her husband. Many more aspects of medieval sexual inequality are presented here by Lynda Telford. The Sarum Missal taught that the medieval wife should be 'bonair and buxom in bed and at board'. This does not mean bonny and cuddly, but rather courteous and obliging with her vows of meekness and obedience. This fascinating book explores the status of women in medieval England both before and after the Norman Conquest. Telford makes a convincing argument that for ordinary women, the Conquest was in many ways a terrible step backwards in terms of their rights and position in society. She starts by contrasting the differences in status between Anglo/Danish or Saxon women with those who fell under the burden of the feudal system imposed by the Normans. She covers the subjects of marriage and childbirth, the rights and responsibilities of wives, separation and divorce, safety and security and the challenges of widowhood. She also examines virginity and chastity and the pressures placed on women by religious groups, forced marriage to prostitution and paints a fascinating picture of women's courage and resilience against the background of their times. 320pp, 16 pages of colour photos.

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