First Advisor

Ann Weikel

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Paston family, Women -- England -- History -- Case studies, Women -- History -- Middle Ages (500-1500) -- Case studies, Families -- England -- Case studies, Families -- History -- Middle Ages (500-1500) -- Case studies



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 166 p.)


This thesis questions the prevailing historical models of the medieval family, using the Paston family as a test case. It reviews the theories of three prominent historians of the medieval family: Lawrence Stone, Ralph Houlbrooke and Joel Rosenthal. Whether the Paston family and particularly the women fit the models of families as defined by the above mentioned historians is the underlying question. If the Paston family does not fit these models, what does that tell us about the current assumptions made concerning the fifteen th century family? The thesis illustrates that the family models of Stone do not always apply to the Pastons. Houlbrooke's and Rosenthal's ideas on family are much more reflective of the lives actually led by the Pastons. Therefore, while we can not say that the Pastons were average, they were certainly not exceptional. The lives of the women did not fit the models as established by Stone. Their power came from the home itself, as they managed the estates, educated their children, protected their property and looked after the future financial interests of the family. Houlbrooke allows for this form of power in his studies on women. Rosenthal tends to skirt the issues of women focusing more on the power that they received as widows not as wives. If the theories of our three historians were correct or encompassing enough they would have enfolded the Paston family. Houlbrooke's theories did this. Rosenthal's arguments did not include all aspects of the family, particularly children and education. Stone's arguments, with few exceptions, did not fit the Pastons at all. If we allow for a diversity of family structures and a diversity of roles and relationships within that structure, then we will have a much more accurate picture of the fifteenth century family.


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