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Chapter Summary

This introductory chapter presents an overview of the book High-Ranking Widows in Medieval Iceland and Yorkshire, which examines and compares the property, power, marriage and identity of a selected group of aristocratic widows in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Iceland (fifty in number) and twelfth-century Yorkshire (twenty-five in number). The book encompasses only high-ranking widows, that is, farmer rank and above in Iceland and honorial baronage and above in Yorkshire, but it excludes royal women. It may throw light on the significance of alleged changes in lineage and agnatic descent, through comparison of a society where such developments are alleged to have occurred (Yorkshire), and one where they are not seen as significant, indeed one with very different kinship and inheritance structures (Iceland). The book seeks to place widows fully within the context of family and lifecycle and considers their particular circumstances within their individual social, economic and political contexts.

Keywords: high-ranking widows; medieval Iceland; twelfth-century Yorkshire



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