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A complicated puzzle: spinsters, widows and credit in Sweden (1790–1910)

A complicated puzzle: spinsters, widows and credit in Sweden (1790–1910) This article aims to retrace the extent of single women's engagement in the credit market. To this end, it relies on a series of more than 1,900 probate inventories drawn up between 1790 and 1910 in the two Swedish cities of Gävle and Uppsala. These two cities represent an ideal case study, because the process of industrialisation and economic development resulted in two differently structured credit markets. The research centres initially on the problem of studying women's agency from probate inventories. It analyses the main characteristics of spinsters and widows as they emerge from the sources and compares them with married women. Subsequently, the article analyses how marital status shaped women's economic lives, affecting how they participated in the credit market. For this purpose, it focuses specifically on banking and peer-to-peer exchanges (in particular, promissory notes). Spinsters favoured more conservative strategies relying more often on the services provided by banks, while widows seemed to have played an additional, and more significant, role as lenders in peer-to-peer networks. The study also confirms that unmarried women were only rarely active as borrowers. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Financial History Review Cambridge University Press

A complicated puzzle: spinsters, widows and credit in Sweden (1790–1910)

Financial History Review , Volume 29 (1): 23 – Apr 1, 2022

A complicated puzzle: spinsters, widows and credit in Sweden (1790–1910)

Financial History Review , Volume 29 (1): 23 – Apr 1, 2022

Abstract

This article aims to retrace the extent of single women's engagement in the credit market. To this end, it relies on a series of more than 1,900 probate inventories drawn up between 1790 and 1910 in the two Swedish cities of Gävle and Uppsala. These two cities represent an ideal case study, because the process of industrialisation and economic development resulted in two differently structured credit markets. The research centres initially on the problem of studying women's agency from probate inventories. It analyses the main characteristics of spinsters and widows as they emerge from the sources and compares them with married women. Subsequently, the article analyses how marital status shaped women's economic lives, affecting how they participated in the credit market. For this purpose, it focuses specifically on banking and peer-to-peer exchanges (in particular, promissory notes). Spinsters favoured more conservative strategies relying more often on the services provided by banks, while widows seemed to have played an additional, and more significant, role as lenders in peer-to-peer networks. The study also confirms that unmarried women were only rarely active as borrowers.

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Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the European Association for Banking and Financial History
ISSN
1474-0052
eISSN
0968-5650
DOI
10.1017/S0968565021000160
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article aims to retrace the extent of single women's engagement in the credit market. To this end, it relies on a series of more than 1,900 probate inventories drawn up between 1790 and 1910 in the two Swedish cities of Gävle and Uppsala. These two cities represent an ideal case study, because the process of industrialisation and economic development resulted in two differently structured credit markets. The research centres initially on the problem of studying women's agency from probate inventories. It analyses the main characteristics of spinsters and widows as they emerge from the sources and compares them with married women. Subsequently, the article analyses how marital status shaped women's economic lives, affecting how they participated in the credit market. For this purpose, it focuses specifically on banking and peer-to-peer exchanges (in particular, promissory notes). Spinsters favoured more conservative strategies relying more often on the services provided by banks, while widows seemed to have played an additional, and more significant, role as lenders in peer-to-peer networks. The study also confirms that unmarried women were only rarely active as borrowers.

Journal

Financial History ReviewCambridge University Press

Published: Apr 1, 2022

Keywords: credit market; gender history; single women; Sweden; nineteenth century; N13; N23; G21

References