An introduction

This is a semi-public place to dump text too flimsy to even become a blog post. I wouldn't recommend reading it unless you have a lot of time to waste. You'd be better off at my livejournal. I also have another blog, and write most of the French journal summaries at the Eurozine Review.

Why do I clutter up the internet with this stuff at all? Mainly because I'm trying to get into the habit of displaying as much as possible of what I'm doing in public. Also, Blogger is a decent interface for a notebook

Friday, April 23, 2010


Widowhoood is one of those facets of historical experience that I can't really grok. Widows throughout pre-modern history have been subject to such a weird mix of fear and acceptance, left a socially precarious position but also one in which they have more freedom than married women. Biblical examples would be Ruth and Judith; historical ones can be traced through land and tax records. Laurence Fontaine argued in a recent issue of Esprit that widows in France had more access to markets:

Dans la France de l’Ancien Régime, le droit des femmes évoluait selon leur statut social et les phases de leur cycle de vie ; les veuves étant, par exemple, plus libres que les femmes mariées qui restaient soumises à l’autorité des maris. Toutefois, la charge qui leur incombait de s’occuper et de nourrir la famille leur a donné un accès au marché.

What I can't figure out is how much this peculiarly, perversely privileged position of widows was general, how much just a situation which enabled a few personally strong widows to run with it, while the majority ended up in much more difficult circumstances, practically and socially.

[as is probably obvious, this is mainly a marker for a topic I find interesting, but which has presumably already been the subject of multiple books, and which I don't anticipate having anything new to say about]

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