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Title: Sixteenth-century courtship in the diocese of Canterbury
Author: O'Hara, Diana
ISNI:       0000 0001 3453 0315
Awarding Body: University of Kent at Canterbury
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 1995
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This thesis seeks to re-examine the nature of courtship in the sixteenth century, using church court and probate material for the diocese of Canterbury. Challenging the hitherto established views regarding the freedom and personal initiative exercised by courting couples, it explores important topics neglected in most previous studies. Essentially it revives the notion that courtship in the past possessed far more structure and coherence than has been granted recently, and argues that the decision to marry was a momentous one, conducted against a backdrop of constraints and expectations which did much to determine and shape individual choice. Some constraints were external to the principle actors. Chapter 1 argues that parents, kin and community played a number of decisive roles in the making of marriage and Chapter 2 shows how courtship was structured by the giving and receiving of gifts, each invested with their own symbolic meaning. Go-betweens, as Chapter 3 demonstrates, played an important role in mediating between couples, transmitting gifts and messages, and helping in the vital property negotiations. Chapter 4 reveals a great deal more about the constraints of locality and distance over courtship behaviour. Couples possessed relatively restricted geographical horizons which delineated the parameters of their choices and they courted at particular times and in special places. Those intent on marriage, as argued in Chapter 5, also carried a range of internalized assumptions, which, together with legal and social rules may have helped to determine the time thought appropriate to marry. Finally, in Chapter 6, the crucial importance of financial matters in the process of courtship is examined. It demonstrates that even for the relatively humble, the sixteenth century was one of rapid dowry inflation, something that further determined prospects in the matrimonial market. Few marriages took places without negotiations or calculations about future financial prospects and the present value of the bride's contribution to the union.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: D History (General) ; GN Anthropology ; HQ The family. Marriage. Women