The fifteenth-century Paston letters are well known and well documented, the shopping lists which they contain are less so. The exchange of letters between the female family members located in Norfolk and their male relatives living and working in London demonstrate their understanding of the capital as a centre for commercial activity: the ideal place to bag a bargain. The shopping lists contained in letters written by the Paston women show them to be savvy shoppers. But what can they tell us about their wider lives as mothers, wives, in-laws, friends, daughters, and gentry women? This paper takes the shopping lists of the Paston women as a starting point from which to explore the appropriation of mercantile practice to other areas of their lives. Does Margaret shop for spices in the same way she shops for a bride for her son? Is Agnes as direct in ordering costly materials as she is in commanding her daughter to marry? Of course, the activities of this single family located in East Anglia are extraordinarily well preserved thanks to the survival of their letters. Do similar letters or documents survive for their female contemporaries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East? If they do, do their authors shop as keenly and drive as hard a bargain to negotiate a marriage as the Pastons?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
EventSpeaking Internationally : Women’s Literary Culture and the Canon in the Global Middle Ages - Bangor University, Bangor, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jun 201928 Jun 2019


ConferenceSpeaking Internationally
CountryUnited Kingdom
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