Space was not simply a passive backdrop to a social system that had structural origins elsewhere; it was vitally important for marking out and maintaining the hierarchy that sustained social and gender order in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.
Gender had a considerable influence on its use and organization; status and gender were displayed physically and spatially every moment of the day, from a person's place at table to the bed on which he or she slept, in places of work and recreation, in dress, gesture and modes of address. Space was also the basis for the formation of gender identities which were constantly contested and restructured, as this book shows.
Examining in turn domestic, social and sacred spaces and the spatial division of labour in gender construction, the author demonstrates how these could shift, and with them the position and power of women.
She shows that the ideological assumption that all women are subject to all men is flawed, and exposes the limitations of interpretations which rely on the model and binary opposition of public/private, male/female, to describe gender relations and their changes across the period, thus offering a much more complex and picture than has hitherto been perceived.
The book will be essential reading not just for historians of the family and of women, but for all those studying early modern social history. AMANDA FLATHER is a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Essex.