Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Article of the Month

Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.

December 2017 [Posted December 2018]

Coronation of Henry the Lion and Matilda
Silver figurine of an armed valkyrie, Viking Age, found at the Isle of Fyn, Hårby, Denmark, 2012 Displayed at the National Museum of Denmark (Source: National Museum, CC-BY-SA)

Raffield, Ben, Neil Price and Mark Collard. “Polygyny, Concubinage, and the Social Lives of Women in Viking-Age Scandinavia." Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 13 (2017): 165-209.

Abstract: "In this paper we utilize evolutionary theory, anthropological data, and historical sources to explore how marriage practices shaped social behaviours and attitudes towards gender in Viking-Age Scandinavia. We focus primarily on the normative practices of polygyny and concubinage, which have been shown by anthropological studies to legitimize behaviours that reinforce male power. Our survey found that many of these behaviours might have been prevalent among Viking-Age societies. These include competition among men seeking to gain access to the marriage market, female seclusion, and the bartering of women in marriage contracts. Inside the household, these practices may have precipitated an increased risk of domestic violence, the neglect of children, and the male domination of household decisions. However, we also identify a number of significant ways in which male power was contested and subverted by women’s agency, both within the home and in the context of wider society." [Reproduced from the journal page on the Brepols Online website.] Article is available open access on Brepols Online – December 11, 2018