Katherine French

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Helmut F. Stern Professor, professor of history and women's studies

1029 Tisch Hall

Office Location(s): 1733 Haven Hall
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  • About

    “Household Goods and Household Interaction in Late Medieval London”

    This project looks at the material culture of burgess households in late medieval London. While burgesses were only a fraction of medieval London’s population, they were socially and economically important, with a sense of their own social identity and cultural distinctiveness. Central to this identity were the values of industriousness, moderation, hierarchy, and piety, all enacted within and through the household, and all of which, in their minds distinguished them from the excesses of the aristocracy and the shiftlessness of the working poor. An important aspect of forging this identity was the acquisition of an expanding array of manufactured goods: clothing, furniture, dishware, and jewelry, chosen, used, and cherished in ways that promoted and created certain kinds of behaviors. These things not only made burgess lives more comfortable, it made them who they were. But the use and meaning of objects is neither stable nor guaranteed; the increasing diversity of new affordable consumer goods had the power to create new ways of behaving and being. The very goods that made burgesses who they were could also confound their identity, challenge their values, and reorder household dynamics and gender roles.

  • Education
    • Ph.D. University of Minnesota, 1993