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Women in Crusader Valencia: A Five-Year Core Sample, 1265–1270

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This study surveys the presence of women in the crown registers of the medieval Realms of Arago-Catalonia for the period 1265-1270. Approximately five hundred charters pertaining to the crusader kingdom of Valencia cover both the apogee of the reign of Jaume the Conqueror and the scandal created when he aborted his Holy Land crusade, purportedly because of a woman. While women's history may not seem an apt subject in this period of conquest and crusade, in fact these charters offer a suggestive sample of women, especially as landowners, not only in the Christian cities and courts but also in the parallel Jewish and Muslim communities. Women played active roles in this frontier society, as the crown sought to encourage Christian settlement in conquered lands. The charters shed light on the life of Jaume's formally inducted concubine and other women in the royal entourage. At the other end of the spectrum, information emerges about prostitutes and women prisoners. Several documents pertain to the economic lives of nuns, while others concern the rights of widows: notably, one whose son has "become a Saracen." Women played roles as settlers along the frontier between Christian and Muslim realms, with Christian women assuming obligations to reside on lands for a period of years, while Muslim women's lands are confiscated. Among businesswomen, several own baths. One Jewish woman is exempted from certain sumptuary laws. Other documents reveal that Jewish women, like men, paid taxes. Several women receive royal pensions. Women dog handlers appear; one, with her dog, receives the same pay as a fighting man.

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