This introductory chapter asks and answers the question: why study singlewomen from the past? The aim of this book, it states, is to reintroduce marital status as a category of difference, and look at the women from the early modern period about whom the least is known — single or never-married, women. By decentring marriage as the norm in social, economic, and cultural terms, and looking at the topic of marriage in terms of economic, urban, and family history, the book hopes to redefine our current understanding of people's lives in the past. The chapters in the book are outlined.
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