Louisa Foroughi, a Ph.D. candidate in medieval history, was awarded the 2019 Dissertation Fellowship by the National Conference of British Studies (NACBS), a competition open to all those doing dissertation research in the British Isles on any topic of British (including Scottish, Irish and Imperial) history or British Studies. Fordham University). The citation at the annual meeting of the NACBS in November 2019 in Vancouver reads as follows.
Foroughi’s dissertation, “What Makes a Yeoman? Status, Religion, and Material Culture in Later Medieval England,” examines the English yeomanry from the mid-fourteenth to the mid-sixteenth centuries. Yeoman, she explains, occupied a middling rank in late-medieval England, above the peasantry but beneath the gentry, and its numbers and significance rose throughout the fifteenth century. Through the examination of court records, wills and testaments, and case studies, Foroughi reveals the role of both material culture and religious belief in the making of this social group previously more familiar to early modernists.
Most importantly, Foroughi has developed a series of questions – and ways to go about answering them – that recover the role of women and gender in the yeomanry’s making – something that was not high on the list of historians’ priorities in 1942, the last time the yeomanry figured as the subject of a comparable monograph. Yet the yeomanry’s position, Foroughi shows, was only made possible through the dowries brought by wives and daughters, the values transmitted from mothers to children, and the maintenance of households that partly depended upon women’s labor. To recover these aspects of late medieval and early modern social history, Foroughi’s dissertation ingeniously draws upon literary studies, religious studies, and anthropology, in order to make visible the role of women and of gender in the making of the English yeoman class.