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Gender in the economy: female merchants and family businesses in the British Isles, 1600-1850


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Sharpe, P 2001 , 'Gender in the economy: female merchants and family businesses in the British Isles, 1600-1850' , Histoire sociale / Social History, vol. 34, no. 68 , pp. 287-306 .

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Women inhabited some unlikely settings in the early modern world, and in some cases their impact extended well beyond the confines oftheir home and local community. Case studies ofBritish businesswomen in the early industrial era establish their presence
in the areas oflong-distance trade, heavy industry, and high finance. Research on specific families or regions has revealed that from about 1650 to 1780 women owned and actively manipulated a good deal offamily and business capital. The fashion
trade offered scope to businesswomen who could exploit "separate spheres" to their own advantage. Women edged out ofoverseas trade during this period in favour of the expanding domestic retail sector, particularly for luxury goods. By the late eighteenth century, as the infant mortality rate dropped and life expectancy increased for the middle orders, more sons survived, fewer women were left widows, and younger women were more occupied with childcare. While changing social attitudes emphasized the ideal of "separate spheres" for men and women, changing demographics
formed the practical underpinning ofthese social conventions.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Sharpe, P
Journal or Publication Title: Histoire sociale / Social History
ISSN: 0018-2257
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Female Merchants in the British Isles

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