'With Hir Gudis and Geir': married women negotiating the law of property in the courts of seventeenth-century Glasgow

Mason, Rebecca Sheila (2019) 'With Hir Gudis and Geir': married women negotiating the law of property in the courts of seventeenth-century Glasgow. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


This thesis provides the first detailed examination of married women’s legal status and property rights in seventeenth-century Glasgow, showing how Scottish wives thought about, argued over, and actively protected their goods and land within marriage. This thesis examines married women’s legal status and property rights in the burgh (town) and commissary (reformed church) courts of Glasgow across the seventeenth century. It demonstrates the varying agency – from utter subservience to husbands to independent initiators of lawsuits – of married women under the law in legal contracts and actions that reflected their concerns over property. It investigates the extent and character of legal settlements designed to protect women’s property within marriage, as well as the legal activities of married women, both as litigants and interested parties, in property contracts and disputes. Married women in Scotland retained their own surname upon marriage, a practice that enables us to trace individual women in ways not possible with English court records. This thesis is based on the evidence of 5,700 archival sources (court books, legal contracts, property disputes, and wills and testaments) that have been transcribed and entered into a relational database in Microsoft Access. Tracing married women’s property rights upon entering marriage, within marriage, upon widowhood, and upon remarriage, this thesis investigates how marital career and stage of lifecycle affected the ability to assert ownership of land and goods before the courts of Glasgow. Introducing a new model, this thesis proposes that married women’s access to law rested on their position within a ‘marital spectrum’. The Glasgow court books show that married women were recorded in relation to a wide range of social and legal descriptors that makes the legal category of ‘wife’ too simplistic in Scottish practice. This thesis uses contemporary terminology and data from court documents to outline a full marital spectrum; from underage daughters to remarried widows. Rather than understanding married women’s access to the law as conditional on where they placed within the threefold classification of single, married or widowed, this thesis argues that women’s marital status intersected with their existing family networks, responsibilities, and rights to property, both within and outside of marriage.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright issues the electronic version of this thesis will not be uploaded to this record when the embargo period has expired.
Keywords: Women, litigation, marriage, early modern Scotland, Church Courts, property.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Funder's Name: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Shepard, Professor Alexandra and Bowie, Dr. Karin and Mackillop, Dr. Andrew
Date of Award: 2019
Embargo Date: 27 April 2025
Depositing User: Dr Rebecca Mason
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-81305
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2020 14:46
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2020 14:46
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81305

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