At the recent Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Montreal, Sara T. Nalle gave an interesting, richly detailed paper entitled, “Apex and Collapse of the Dowry Market in a Provincial Castilian City: Cuena, 1500-1669.” These findings were taken from her larger project on ethnic identity and the family (see here), and she finds that the 16th and 17th centuries saw Cuena finishing the development, that began centuries earlier, of transition from a horizontal family model to a vertical one, focused on masculinity and lineage. In the mid-16th century, when economic good times prevailed in Cuenca, dowries steadily increased in price while the arras remained stable, even for the lowest craftsmen in the textile industry, wool-carders; marriage to even these humble workers was a good investment for girls’ families, and the dowry commanded about 3-years worth of income. During the 17th century, however, economic disaster hit, dowries continued to increase as economically viable husbands became scarce, and Cuenca saw a steep rise in the reliance of charity to fund dowries. The arras disappeared completely, and the medieval marriage of model was finally replaced by the early modern one.
There was more that I don’t have time and space to get into, but suffice to say that Nalle’s foray back into old-school social history is continuing to provide fascinating material.