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Women and Property in the long Eighteenth Century

Friday 3rd May 2019

A one day workshop at the University of Warwick

Location: Institute of Advanced Study

Keynote speakers:

Dr Briony McDonagh, University of Hull

Dr Karen Lipsedge, Kingston University London

Part-funded by the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick.

Convenor: Dr. Rita J. Dashwood, IAS Early Career Fellow (English and Comparative Literary Studies)


The workshop is free. Registration is essential.

The anonymous author of The Hardships of English Laws in Relation to Wives complained in 1735 about the injustice of English laws with regards to women’s property rights, especially when compared to other European countries: “I have been informed by Persons of great Integrity, who have long resided in Portugal … that a Wife in Portugal if she brought never a Farthing, has Power to dispose of half her Husband’s Estate by Will; whereas a Woman by our Law alienates all her own Property so entirely by Marriage, that if she brought an hundred thousand Pounds in Money, she cannot bequeath one single Penny.” The Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 was the watershed moment in which married women’s property rights finally became law. Women, however, had been establishing powerful relationships towards property long before the change in the law.

These relationships formed by women towards property, both portable and non-portable, formed the focus of this multidisciplinary workshop. By joining together speakers from a wide range of disciplines, including but not limited to, Literature, History and Human Geographies, this highly successful event generated a productive discussion on the ways in which these relationships have been constructed in both fictional and non-fictional texts.

Lady of the Manor (1781) mezzotint from the British Museum collection

'I'll not distress my Tenants, take back your Yearly Rents, & when better times shall come, remember your kind Benefactress'

The Lady of the Manor (1781)

mezzotint, image courtesy of the British Museum