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[Extract] This essay explores how bureaux, donors and the poor in Catholic urban communities in sixteenth-century France produced meanings of poverty and charity. It analyses how these meanings were negotiated discursively through administrative documents produced by town councils and poor-relief bureaux and the spatial, gendered and emotional practices that these revealed. These texts relate to a number of French towns and cities, including both Paris and provincial hubs spread across France that differed in size and significance at this period, such as Verdun, Troyes, Tours and Nantes. Through the administrative archives of these towns, I explore how understandings of poverty and charity were made by individuals, through texts and acts, in particular urban spaces that included physical sites shaped by collective use and participation such as squares, hospitals and churches; boundary and marginal spaces such as city walls and gates; more intimate locations such as households, lodgings and doorways; and through conceptual spatial units that were spiritual, such as the parish, and municipal, such as the quartier and dizaine.1 Urban space, I argue, played a key role in identifying the needy and in shaping practices of charity and, in turn, gained new emotional and gendered meanings over the century as provisions for poor relief shifted and changed in response to new circumstances and pressures in French towns.


Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences

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