Book Series Studies in the History of Daily Life (AD 800-1600), vol. 10

Gender and Status Competition in Pre-Modern Societies

Martha Bayless, Jonas Liliequist, Lewis Webb (eds)

  • Pages: 340 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:9 b/w, 6 col., 1 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2022

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59632-7
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59633-4
  • E-book
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This innovative volume of pre-modern cultural history offers the opportunity to compare the ways in which gender and status competition intersect across periods and places.


“This volume contributes significantly to literature on pre modern masculinity, as well as women’s history (…) The scope of this volume (…) offers insights into historical continuity, as when Ameri notes the continuing use of metal seals among Central Asian peoples through the early twentieth century (19) and accordingly demonstrates the critical contribution medieval European studies can make to investigations of world history.” (Emily Tai, in Speculum, 98/4, 2023, p. 1211)

“The volume uses its diverse content to  effectively demonstrate the significant influence of gender on how humans have  sought to gain advantage in numerous interpersonal contexts throughout time. Ultimately, it succeeds in its aim to advertise the fruitfulness of gender and status  competition as a rich and growing area of research.” (Cassandra Schilling, in Parergon, 40/1, 2023, p. 238)



Martha Bayless is Professor of English at the University of Oregon, USA. Jonas Liliequist is Professor Emeritus of History at Umeå University, Sweden. Lewis Webb is a Swedish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Oxford.


This innovative volume of cultural history offers a unique exploration of how gender and status competition have intersected across different periods and places. The contributions collected here focus on the role of women and the practice of masculinity in settings as varied as ancient Rome, China, Iran, and Arabia, medieval and early modern England, and early modern Italy, France, and Scandinavia, as well as exploring issues that affected people of all social rank, from raillery and pranks to shaming, male boasting about sexual conquests, court rituals, violence, and the use and display of wealth. Particular attention is paid to the performance of such issues, with chapters examining status and gender through cultural practices, especially specific (re)presentations of women. These include Roman priestesses, early Christian virgin martyrs, flirtation in seventh-century Arabia, and the attempt by an early modern French woman to take her place among the immortals. Together this wide-ranging and fascinating array of studies from renowned scholars offers new insights into how and why different cultures responded to the drive for status, and the complications of gender within that drive.


List of Illustrations

General Theme and Questions

Part I: Practices

Women, Seals, and Power in Prehistoric Iran and Central Asia — MARTA AMERI

Exaequatio and aemulatio: Regulation of Elite Female Status Competition in Mid-Republican Rome — LEWIS WEBB

Manly Virtues, Emotions, and Scars: Competition among Italian Renaissance Soldiers through Bodily Practices — GIULIA MOROSINI

Shame and Boastfulness in Early Modern Italy: Showing off Masculinity and Exposing Sexual Submission in Class and Age Competitions — UMBERTO GRASSI

‘I Am as Honest a Man as You’: Gender and Conflicts about Status and Honour in Early Modern Sweden — JONAS LILIEQUIST

Practices — Reflections and Concluding Remarks

Part II: Performances

Jealousy, Gender, and a Moralist’s Mission in Early China — YIQUN ZHOU

Early Medieval Board Games: Issues of Power and Gender — MARTHA BAYLESS

The Social Circulation of Grief: Status Competition, Mourning and Gender in Seventeenth-Century China — MARTIN W. HUANG

‘Just a Humble Petitioner of a Saint?’: Devotion as a Strategy for Attaining Prestige in Fourteenth-Century Italian Canonization Processes — SARI KATAJALA-PELTOMAA

Performances — Reflections and Concluding Remarks

Part III: (Re)presentations

Coniunx et sacerdos: Livia as Widow and Priestess of Divus Augustus — LOVISA BRÄNNSTEDT

Double Martyrdom, Double Crown: Virgin Martyrs and Fourth-Century Ascetic Hierarchies — SISSEL UNDHEIM

A Competitive Fantasy Figure and his Female Conquests: ʿUmar ibn Abi Rabiʿa — JULIA BRAY

Hélisenne de Crenne Challenging Male Mastery: Translating Virgil’s Aeneid in the French Sixteenth Century — BRITT-MARIE KARLSSON AND SARA MODIG

(Re)presentations — Reflections and Concluding Remarks