Mapping Women’s Movement in Medieval England
By Claire Clement
MA Thesis, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2012
Introduction: Spatial limitations have historically been one of the major methods used by dominant groups to control individuals outside their group. As military strategy uses spatial limitations to protect (through fortresses), and to attack (through siege), and as political strategy has at times used the containment of less-dominant ethnicities (through ghettos and legislated racial segregation), so too has social control been effected through the imposition of spatial limitations.
Women, as a less-dominant group in all periods and most cultures in history, have experienced many forms of spatial limitation. While some of this was rationalized as fortress-like protection of women from the dangers of the world, the “precautions” also limited women’s ability to move freely within the geographical boundaries of their cultures.
The limitations of women’s ability in a given culture has, however, been largely dependent on a number of variables, such as behavior, clothing, companions, and justifications for movement. The study of these variables and their correlations with women’s scope and character of movement is crucial for a greater understanding of women’s mobility in general, and therefore, of women’s freedom and the systems of social control that serve to limit it.