Widowhood through requests. An Example of Notarial Activity in Barcelona in the 14th Century

Mireia Comas Via


Notarial documents are, certainly, an indispensable resource for women history. While wills, inventories and any type of contracts are the most used notarial documents, requests and arbitration awards do not usually attract scholars’ attention. However, this kind of notarial documents is an effective source to study the dif culties they had to deal with and to analyse the causes of their situation. The substantial presence of widows in judicial documents from Barcelona seems to suggest that their rights were not always respected. The fact that they were usually single women or women without men sometimes led the late husband’s heirs and relatives to try to take advantage of the widow’s position for personal gain. The sources show widows defending their rights, as well as the rights of their children, especially when pursuing the restitution of their dowries, and complaining about the excessive expenses of judicial proceedings, requesting a fair and transparent trial, and for judgments to be expedited. Even though such situations were probably a consequence of their vulnerability, widows were able to have their voices heard in court to find a solution to their needs.


notarial activity; notarial requests; arbitration awards; widowhood; Barcelona; Late Middle Ages

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