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The benefit of confinement: Women's geographical mobility in the Middle Ages and the travels of Matta Ivarsdotter 1504-1511
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History.
2007 (English)In: Scandia, ISSN 0036-5483, Vol. 73, no 3, 39-63 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Female travel in medieval times, as opposed to other forms of geographical mobility such as migration, has been given relatively little attention by scholars. This article attempts to illuminate the issue, and the possibilities of its further exploration, through an analysis of the travels of Matta Ivarsdotter, the wife of Sweden's regent 1504-1511 Svante Nilsson. The pattern of her travels shows that the degree of geographical mobility for a woman of her social standing was rather high, probably even as high as that of her husband, and that although gendered division of,labour limited her to a domestic sphere, that did not constrain her in terms of spatial mobility and experience. On the contrary, the delegation of women to the domestic sphere meant for medieval women within the upper classes, where the domestic sphere consisted of a great number of spatially dispersed mansions and properties, often that such a responsability entailed precisely a wide geographical experience and horizon. The result enforces earlier scholarly criticism against the simplistic use of the 'domestic/public' dichotomy to explain women's situation in the Middle Ages. Furthermore, when Matta did transcend the domestic/public border by becoming, on at least three occasions, chief responsible for two of the realm's most important castles, her potentially powerful position as a geographically mobile regent's wife within the female/domestic sphere was substituted by a position of an immobile castle commander within the male/public sphere, which, paradoxically approached the immobility and thereby powerlessness proscribed by Medieval idealistic thought on gender.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 73, no 3, 39-63 p.
Keyword [en]
geographical mobility, Middle Ages, gender, public/private sphere, Matta Ivarsdotter, Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-55228ISI: 000256414000003OAI: diva2:402212
authorCount :1Available from: 2011-03-07 Created: 2011-03-07 Last updated: 2011-03-07Bibliographically approved

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