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Women, Drink and Agency in Early Modern England and France

Matthew D. Jackson

This dissertation seeks to explore the space for female agency within the male- dominated social sphere of the drinking house in early modern England and France. Through a fresh examination of the evidence and an engagement with current research, it provides a critique of the historiographical orthodoxy on women’s vulnerable and peripheral status, arguing that as publicans, servants and patrons, women negotiated diverse forms of empowerment within drinking houses. Acknowledging women’s subversive agency to undermine and challenge patriarchal authority, this dissertation also attempts to locate agency within less confrontational frameworks, illuminating the ways in which women staked out their claims for respect, honour, friendship, social recognition and identity within these masculine territories. The study is structured in three parts: chapter one sets the contextual scene for this dissertation, outlining the structures of the drink trade, attitudes to drinking houses and women’s envisioned place within them; chapters two and three then provide a detailed analysis of the agency women exercised while working and socialising in these spaces. Arguments are based on two types of primary sources: legal records, from the Old Bailey Proceedings and the Archives de la Bastille, and popular literature, employing these cultural representations as valuable insights into early modern societies.

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