25 February 2019

Capital Women. The European Marriage Pattern, Female Empowerment and Economic Development in Western Europe 1300-1800

At the end of April the book Capital Women. The European Marriage Pattern, Female Empowerment and Economic Development in Western Europe 1300-1800 will be published by Oxford University Press. Capital Women is written by Prof. Jan Luiten van Zanden, Prof. Tine de Moor and Dr Sarah Carmichael (Economic and Social History). 

How women increasingly became economic agents in early modern Europe is the focus of this stimulating book, which highlights how female agency was crucial for understanding the development of the Western European economy and sheds light on economic development today.

european marriage pattern

Jan Luiten van Zanden, Tine De Moor and Sarah Carmichael argue that over centuries a "European Marriage Pattern" developed, characterized by high numbers of singles among men and women, high marriage ages among men and women, and neolocality, where the couple forms a new nuclear household and did not co-reside with the parents of either bride or groom. This was due to the influence of the Catholic Church's teachings of marriage based on consensus, the rise of labor markets, and institutions concerning property transfers between generations that enhanced wage labor by women. Over time an unprecedented demographic regime was created and embedded in a highly commercial environment in which households interacted frequently with labor, capital and commodity markets. This was one of the main causes of the gradual move away from a Malthusian state towards an economy able to generate long-term economic growth.

women and the economy

The authors explore how the pattern was influenced by and influenced female human capital formation, access to the capital market, and participation in the labor market. They use numerous measures of economic activity, including the unique "Girlpower-Index" that measures the average age at first marriage of women minus the spousal age gap, with higher absolute age at marriage and lower spousal age gap both indicating greater female agency and autonomy. The book also examines how this measure can increase understanding of contemporary dynamics of women and the economy. The authors thus shed light on the degree to which women are allowed to play an influential role in and on the economy and society, which varies greatly from one society to another.

 

 

institutions for open societies

Jan Luiten van Zanden and Tine de Moor are historians, and also connected to Institutions for Open Societies - an interdisciplinary research area of Utrecht University focused on the development and expansion of healthy open societies everywhere.