Welcome to the website for the project ‘Women’s Work in Rural England, 1500-1700: A New Methodological Approach’. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust and based at the University of Exeter, the project started in January 2015 and ran until the summer of 2018.

Our team comprises Jane Whittle (Principal Investigator), Mark Hailwood (Honorary Research Fellow), Charmian Mansell (Research Associate) and Imogene Dudley (PhD Student). Together Jane, Mark and Charmian investigated women’s work activities in early modern England using incidental evidence from church court depositions, quarter sessions examinations, and coroners’ rolls. Imogene investigated women’s waged work through the detailed study of household accounts. Our focus was on the South West of England, and we used records relating to Cornwall, Devon, Hampshire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

We blog about our progress on this site, as well as posting details about upcoming talks, conference papers, events and publications related to the project – so do follow us! You can sign up to receive email alerts of our latest blog posts by clicking the ‘follow’ button on the right hand side of this page, and you can also follow us on twitter – @womensworkexe – where we regularly tweet some of our most interesting (and amusing) archival finds.

14 Responses to Home

  1. Helen Good says:

    Don’t ignore Star Chamber, all of early modern life is in Star Chamber. http://www.uh.edu/waalt/index.php/Elizabethan_Star_Chamber_Project
    follow on @StarChamberEliz
    Helen Good
    University of Hull


    • Thanks for this Helen. With the cataloging by county it may well be possible for us to consult some Star Chamber cases for the South West counties we are focusing on – although the copious material in the church courts and quarter sessions is our first port of call and may well prove more than enough to get through!


  2. Kirsty says:

    Hi, as a layperson, very excited to see how this progresses!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Julie Griffin says:

    As a history re-enactor,as well as someone interested in history, this looks fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. anthony matthews says:

    Very worth while project. An important social and economic development of pre-industrial England. Well away from London and York our principal cities.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Susan Cogan, Utah State University says:

    I’ve just started this in the Midlands, using household accounts. I’m so pleased to see this larger project in progress!


    • Women's Work in Rural England, 1500-1700 says:

      That’s great to hear: are you using a similar ‘verb-oriented’ methodology? We have a PhD student applying this approach to South West household accounts, so there will be a fruitful comparison to be made. Do follow us and keep in touch!


      • Susan Cogan says:

        I’m not sure what methodology I’ll use — this is so new that I’m still working to absorb what I’m seeing. I found this material while looking for something else in the accounts, so rather a double bonus.


  6. Charlene Ball says:

    As a historical novelist, I am interested in this project.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Some activities traditionally undertaken by women (cheese & butter making, brewing, childcare, looking after animals) could go wrong for reasons not understood at the time [ bacteria etc. ] and therefore mysterious. I wonder if this was a factor in why the majority of people accused of witchcraft were women. Any thoughts on that?


    • Women's Work in Rural England, 1500-1700 says:

      Yes, I think there is something in that, and it is a point that has been picked up on in the literature on witchcraft.


  8. Val Tarrant says:

    Please will you tell me where the illustrations across the top of the page come from.

    Thank you.


  9. Emma Nicholls (@hsyresearch) says:

    As part of my PhD, I’m looking at women’s work inside convents, 15th, 16th century – in Italy, not England, but looking forward to hearing more about this project!

    Liked by 1 person

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