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A Bitter LivingWomen, Markets, and Social Capital in Early Modern Germany$
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Sheilagh Ogilvie

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205548

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205548.001.0001

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(p.206) CHAPTER FIVE Widows
A Bitter Living


Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates the economic position of widows in the pre-industrial German society under analysis in this book. Patterns of widows' work are distilled from a database of work observations extracted from church-court records and are compared with those of other females (and males). These findings are then set alongside information on widows' livelihoods from an 18th-century economic census. Data on widowed female household-headship are used to identify the variables encouraging widows' economic independence. Qualitative findings are then used to explore competing hypotheses about the biological, technological, cultural and institutional determinants of widows' economic position. The chapter discusses the institutional factors constraining widows' economic activities, in particular the ‘social capital’ of craft guilds, merchant guilds, and local communities. The chapter concludes by exploring the implications for the wider developing economy of these constraints on widows' work.

Keywords:   widowhood, household structure, social capital, craft guild, merchant guild, Germany, Württemberg

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