Working women and guildsmen in an era of economic change: Discourses on labour and gender identity (Flanders, 13th and 14th century)
By Peter Stabel
Paper given at the The N.W. Posthumus Conference at the University of Antwerp (2011)
Introduction: One of the major themes of pre-modern European history to capture the imagination of historians the past decades is certainly the so-called European marriage pattern. In the wake of other key variables to explain the great divergence between Northwest European society (and even Western society in general) and other parts of the world, the particularities of western European demographic behavior have been called in to explain often diverse, sometimes even blatantly contradictory arguments as to why particular European regions were able to develop efficient labor markets that pushed gender relations into a more egalitarian, less patriarchal system and, therefore, achieving greater efficiency and market integration, and as to why the marriage pattern locked women into subdued and life-cycle determined positions on the labor market and how this eventually led to the system of the companionate nuclear family, where woman‟s role was defined in terms of the household economy.