Looking After Underaged Heirs

  • Miriam MüllerEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series (PSHC)


This chapter explores in detail the children left in the care of guardians, as well as the principle guardians themselves. The gender and ages of children left top the care of appointed guardians are analysed, and the responsibilities of guardians discussed. Of importance is a detailed discussion of the role of step parentage in medieval peasant communities, and the cultural normalisation of the experience of step parents and half siblings as well as step siblings within rural familial structures. Müller draws attention to the way in which different types of causes of mass—or increased mortality—such as the famine and the Black Death- affected different socio-economic structures within villages and created different set of orphans in terms of background as well as age groups. Müller strongly argues that a main motivation for taking on the responsibilities of underaged heirs was not exploitation or profiteering as has often been proposed, but mutuality and care. The fairly minor roles of both lords and church in looking after orphans is discussed, while Müller offers a detailed analysis of the ways in which lords were able to profit from the allocation of guardianships, and how this profit margin was significantly influenced both by locality and the impact of external factors, such as the Black Death.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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