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Chapter Summary

This chapter seeks to answer the question 'What property - that is, what land and movables - did widows hold, and how did they acquire it?' The legal statements suggest that the three main avenues for acquisition by both Icelandic and Yorkshire women were inheritance, dowry and brideprice/dower. They also suggest that inheritance from natal kin was no simple matter. Of the fifty Icelandic and twenty-five Yorkshire widows, information exists about some portion of the property of all but twelve of the Icelandic. There were ways for widows to acquire or hold property other than as inheritance, dowry or brideprice/dower. These appear to have been limited and were often dependent on family preferences or politics. The chapter explores female inheritance and the question of its division; the influence of illegitimacy on inheritance; and marital assignments, that is, dowry, insofar as it can be separated from female inheritance, and dower.

Keywords: female inheritance; Icelandic widows; marital assignments; property; Yorkshire widows



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