The Silk Industries of Medieval Paris. Artisanal Migration, Technological Innovation, and Gendered Experience
Sharon Farmer, The Silk Industries of Medieval Paris. Artisanal Migration, Technological Innovation, and Gendered Experience, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016, 368 p.
"In The Silk Industries of Medieval Paris we have, for the first time, a coherent discussion of silk and accessories production that accounts for the unusual presence of female guilds in Paris. Sharon Farmer also reveals the basis of the appearance of luxury fabrics made in Paris in aristocratic and royal account books. This is an invaluable contribution to the history of women, gender, and medieval industry."— Kathryn Reyerson, University of Minnesota
For more than one hundred years, from the last decade of the thirteenth century to the late fourteenth, Paris was the only western European town north of the Mediterranean basin to produce luxury silk cloth. What was the nature of the Parisian silk industry? How did it get there? And what do the answers to these questions tell us?
According to Sharon Farmer, the key to the manufacture of silk lies not just with the availability and importation of raw materials but with the importation of labor as well. Farmer demonstrates the essential role that skilled Mediterranean immigrants played in the formation of Paris's population and in its emergence as a major center of luxury production. She highlights the unique opportunities that silk production offered to women and the rise of women entrepreneurs in Paris to the very pinnacles of their profession. The Silk Industries of Medieval Paris illuminates aspects of intercultural and interreligious interactions that took place in silk workshops and in the homes and businesses of Jewish and Italian pawnbrokers.
Drawing on the evidence of tax assessments, aristocratic account books, and guild statutes, Farmer explores the economic and technological contributions that Mediterranean immigrants made to Parisian society, adding new perspectives to our understanding of medieval French history, luxury trade, and gendered work.