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Childless Families in Languedoc in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries

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Childlessness was a widespread concern for late medieval couples. In the southern French diocese of Maguelone, an average of 43 percent of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century urban testators and of 25 percent of rural testators had no children alive although they were or had been married. This article investigates, first, patterns of childlessness in time and space based on the analysis of close to 1,100 wills. In a second time, the focus shifts toward the causes of childlessness, understood as resulting from both the death of children and issues of infertility. A series of factors, some environmental, other due to the nature of sources, explain why urban couples exhibit higher rates of childlessness than rural couples. The last section of this article explores the consequences of the absence of children on the transmission of estates and on support for the elderly.




Laumonier, L. J. (2020). Childless Families in Languedoc in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. Journal of Family History, 45(4), 359–393.

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