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Gender, property and succession in the early modern English aristocracy: the case of Martha Janes and her illegitimate children

Worthen, Hannah; McDonagh, Briony; Capern, Amanda


Hannah Worthen

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Professor Briony McDonagh
Interim Director of the Energy and Environment Institute & Professor of Environmental Humanities

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Dr Amanda Capern
Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Women's History



This article addresses the boundaries of female power within early modern aristocratic families. It examines the family arrangements of Lord Emmanuel Scroop whose marriage to Elizabeth Manners was childless. The research sets out to uncover Lord Scroop’s relationship with his servant, Martha Janes, and the property litigation pursued by Janes on behalf of their four illegitimate children whom Lord Scroop left his family estates to. The article sheds light on the hidden histories of bastardy and property within aristocratic families. It investigates how Janes and her children ultimately played a central role in the succession strategies of Lord Scroop, and considers how much importance aristocratic men attached to the concept of a legitimate male bloodline. The objective is to shine a light on economic and legal relationships in aristocratic families and reveal the relative—and relational—power an unmarried woman could gain through maternity.


Worthen, H., McDonagh, B., & Capern, A. (2019). Gender, property and succession in the early modern English aristocracy: the case of Martha Janes and her illegitimate children. Women's History Review, 1-20.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 18, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 28, 2019
Publication Date Nov 28, 2019
Deposit Date Dec 12, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 29, 2021
Journal Women's History Review
Print ISSN 0961-2025
Electronic ISSN 1747-583X
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-20
Keywords Early modern women; Gender; Illegitimacy; Inheritance; Property; Aristocracy,; Servants; Family; Litigation; Maternity
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Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:; Published: 2019-11-28


Accepted manuscript (591 Kb)

Copyright Statement
©2019 University of Hull

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