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The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western Europe, 1500 - 1800
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The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western Europe, 1500 - 1800

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  62 ratings  ·  7 reviews
How did women in 16th century western Europe cope with the consequences of being considered inherently sinful--as well as being legally and economically subordinate to their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons? What might become of a woman unable to raise a dowry? What were the difficulties faced by spinsters, single mothers, and widows? In this brilliant investigation i ...more
Paperback, 672 pages
Published February 24th 1998 by Vintage (first published October 19th 1995)
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This is one of my favorite history books. Olwen Hufton provides a detailed history of women's lives from 1500 to 1800. She takes a balanced approach to the subject - i.e., no "all men are pigs" or "things were so much better in the good old days!" The book covers how women planned for marriage, and found a husband, dealt with married life, children, and widowhood. Ms Hufton also tells of physical abuse, women accused of being witches, prostitution, nuns, female authors, and even female rioters. ...more
A wealth of information, beuatifully organized and easy to read and retain. I find myself coming back to this book again and again in conversations about women's lives and women's rights. What was most startling to me was the overarching sense that not much has changed for women between the Middle Ages and now. We are still tied to this life by our sex and reproductive role; and, that what truly determines our life path is as much a matter of the economy and the social standing of the family we ...more
A really well written overview of a vast amount of material. It must be difficult to synthesise so much research but it didn't feel shallow and plenty of individual studies picked out alongside the generalisations.

Pretty depressing stuff though. Glad I wasn't alive between 1500 and 1800. Sounds like very hard work, with very few options and a lot of keeping quiet and putting up.
Extremely interesting, especially the parts that discuss what people's daily lives consisted of and what they had to do to make a living. Because it's about women, you get more domestic (real-life) focus than history books that talk about Great Events. Occasionally maddening, of course.

It took me months to finish only because I had to take the fall semester off from reading it.
I read this book as research before designing Lucia di Lammermoor. It is a very readable history of women, I learned a lot. My design was greatly influenced by the themes expressed in this book. I plan to read the next book in the series at some point.
We women who live in this century in the free west are VERY lucky!
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Olwen Hufton DBE is one of the foremost historians of early modern Europe and a pioneer of social history and of women's history. She is an expert on Early Modern, western European comparative socio-cultural history with special emphasis on gender, poverty, social relations, religion and work. In 2006 she joined Royal Holloway as a part-time Professorial Research Fellow in the History Department.

More about Olwen H. Hufton...
Women and the Limits of Citizenship in the French Revolution Europe: Privilege and Protest, 1730-1789 (Fontana History of Europe) Women in the Religious Life Bayeux in the Late 18th Century The Poor of Eighteenth Century France, 1750-1789

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