Women as Urban Hucksters and Market Landlords in Fourteenth-Century Montpellier

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 12:10 PM
Chicago Ballroom G (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Kathryn L. Reyerson, University of Minnesota
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Kathryn Reyerson

Women as Urban Hucksters and Market Landlords in 14th c. Montpellier

The urban market square in medieval Montpellier brought together women from various walks of life, along with men.  An informal community of fourteen women can be identified in the 1330s as market resellers on the Herbaria Square in central Montpellier.  Through their testimonies in a lawsuit over the public status of the square, they made reference to generations of additional women hucksters stretching back several decades.  These women rented their collapsible stalls from the owners of houses around the square and sometimes from the renters of the houses. Among the landlords on market squares, elite women were frequently present.  This paper will explore the community of market resellers of the Herbaria and the interaction among the hucksters and elite women as landlords. 

Considerable information is available about the hucksters from their testimonies.  Some of the market sellers were single, some married, and some widowed.  These women were an articulate group, with considerable collective memory of events on the market square.  Through sales, exchanges, and rentals of shops and tables and ownership information about commercially strategic houses, it is possible to explore the investments by elite women in the market economy.  One of the prominent landlords was Agnes de Bossones, widow of a changer and member of the urban elite.  She was a landlord on the hucksters’ square and a personage mentioned frequently in the hucksters’ testimonies.  This case study will shed light on horizontal and vertical ties within the medieval economy, particularly in regard to networks and communities of women.

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