Marriage as Partnership: The Legal Position of MarriedWomen in the Sixteenth-Century Southern Low Countries

Project Details


In the early modern Low Countries, the household was by law built on cooperation between spouses. It was construed as a partnership, which made that the wife - since she was an 'associate' - could sign contracts that were beneficial for the household. Assessing the extent to which this autonomous behaviour was allowed in legal terms, thus detailing the legal position of married women, will contribute to debates on the impact of law on gender status in history, and to discussions regarding the patriarchal nature of sixteenth-century family law, contract law and patrimonial law. It will allow for an adjustment of older legal-historical scholarship that sets forth the general incapacity of married women to sign contracts and to act in court without the authority of their husband. The proposed project will advance conclusions on the basis of an analysis of different types of rules and law that in the 1500s were in use in Antwerp and in Leuven, both of which had a different economic setting and legal regime as to family estates.
Effective start/end date1/01/1431/12/17

Flemish discipline codes

  • History of law
  • Law
  • Metalaw


  • Interdisciplinary Study of the Law
  • Meta-Law