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Property And Marriage: The Laws

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Chapter Summary

The legal statements for twelfth- and thirteenth-century Iceland and England contain material on widows in relation to property and marriage, and this chapter focuses only on the legal theory. Inheritance is covered in greatest detail. The legal sources raise questions about widows' control of property, both land and other wealth. These require discussion of the way widows might come to hold property - as heiresses of their parents, through dowry at marriage which might be a form of inheritance, and through brideprice or dower from their husband or his kin. Discussion, therefore, covers female inheritance more generally, and the property arrangements involved in marriage. Martindale argues that changes in family organization and rules governing inheritance had a significant impact on land transfers and succession. Such changes ultimately saw a reluctance to endow all children and the triumph of primogeniture.

Keywords: dowry; England; female inheritance; Iceland; land transfers; legal statements; marriage; widows



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