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date: 20 April 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores ideas and practices of gender in public and private space in medieval Europe. It considers elite and religious men and women as well as the spaces used by lower-status people, and draws on historical records, literature, and archaeology. From the early Middle Ages, space was planned in order to reinforce social hierarchies, but normative rules about gendered spatial conduct also soon became commonplace. Such rules varied over time and from place to place and were often contradicted by popular behavior. Nevertheless ideals did affect vernacular architecture and the use of space by people of most social classes. Above all attitudes towards space were conditioned by religion. Radical changes in the use of domestic and street spaces often followed radical religious change. Within Christian communities the central cultural focus for the gendered regulation of space was the desire to purify material production, particularly the reproduction of children.

Keywords: public space, private space, towns, streets, houses, conduct, religion, work, property

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