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Title: Women and property : a study of women as owners, lessors and lessees of plots of land in England during the nineteenth century as revealed by the land surveys carried out by the railway, canal and turnpike companies
Author: Casson, Janet Penelope
ISNI:       0000 0004 2747 6578
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This study investigates the ownership and leasing of plots of land by women in four regions of England throughout the nineteenth century including Oxfordshire and surrounding counties (agricultural); West Yorkshire (industrial); London (the metropolis); and Durham ( mining). Innovative research was linked to standard econometric analysis utilising a new source of information about land, namely the books of reference produced by the railway companies. These books had unique advantages, particularly as legal documents scrutinised by Parliament and the public. Information was compiled about 23,966 plots including their uses and details of ownership, leasing and occupation; with a minimum sample of 400 plots per region, per decade. The women were recorded when identified in the documents as owners, lessors or lessees. The study compares the uses of plots with a woman owner or lessee with plots owned by men or institutions. The influence of parish characteristics and the roles of common law and equity on women’s plot ownership are considered, especially the effects of the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882. On average women owned 12.4 per cent of the sampled plots and leased 3.8 per cent, with regional variations. Plot usage and location were important at regional and parish level with women adapting their ownership to local economic conditions. Differences were found between the uses of women-owned plots and those owned by men and institutions. The greatest percentage of women-owned plots everywhere were owned or leased by women with no male or institutional co-owners. There was a multi-regional, long-term time trend towards a greater involvement of women in plot ownership during the century, with a spike in women’s ownership in Yorkshire and London during the Railway Mania. The Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 reduced women’s ownership of plots in every region except London, whereas the 1882 Married Women’s Property Act had mixed effects across the regions. Overall, the research challenges the view that legal and social constraints confined women’s ownership of land to wealthy widows and spinsters and shows that ownership was far more widespread than has been supposed.
Supervisor: Humphries, K. J. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Economic and Social History ; women ; land ; ownership ; England ; nineteenth century ; local history ; gender studies ; economic history