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Kate Kelsey Staples, Ph.D.

Associate Department Chair, Associate Professor

Teaching Fields:


Research Interests

Dr. Staples is interested in the gender, social, and cultural history of medieval Europe, especially of urban spaces. In her book,  Daughters of London: Inheriting Opportunity in the Late Middle Ages (Brill, 2011), she examines the opportunities that daughters inherited from their parents in order to participate in a world that often consigned them to passive roles. Her analysis of daughters’ inheritances in London, in concert with that of their brothers, challenges our notions of women’s property ownership in the late Middle Ages. Daughters who inherited real estate were not rare in late medieval London, nor was it uncommon for these daughters to invest their property in a variety of ways. These merchants’ and artisans’ daughters may have run up against enduring patriarchal structures and norms, but they negotiated these limitations (by evading, co-opting, and contesting), as did many women before and after. Further, by considering women as daughters we are able to view women’s experience in the past with a broader lens.

Questions raised in the book have brought her to her current project that explores women and labor in urban spaces in Northern Europe. Tentatively titled “ Used Goods: The Secondhand Trade and the Significance of Grey Markets in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries,” this project investigates the occupation of fripperers and upholders, the secondhand clothes and goods dealers of the late Middle Ages. Rather than relegated to the margins of the medieval economy, the secondhand market was multifaceted, serving many. It provided goods in demand in the late Middle Ages when the cost and power of clothing and goods could be quite high, and ready cash was relatively low. With this topic, she seeks to understand the cultural and economic standing of these traders, the material culture surrounding their product, the market spaces in which they worked, and the competitive and cooperative networks within which they operated. In all of these lines of inquiry, she is attentive to the way that gender norms shaped the trade and how intersectionality can help us understand their experiences, and those of their customers.

Courses Offered



Daughters of London: Inheriting Opportunity in Late Medieval London. Brill Academic Publishers, 2011.

Journal Articles and Entries:

"Con-artists or entrepreneurs? Fripperers and market space in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Paris,"  Journal of Medieval History 43:2 (2017): 228-254.

“The Significance of the Secondhand Trade in Europe, 1200-1600,”  History Compass, Vol. 13, Issue 6 (June 2015): 297-309.

“Fripperers” and “Botchers”,  Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles (Brill Academic Publishing, 2012).

“Fripperers and the Used Clothing Trade in Late Medieval London,”  Medieval Clothing and Textiles, Vol. 6 (May 2010): 151-171.

“Identifying Women Proprietors in Wills from Fifteenth-Century London,” in “The Rise of the Mercantile Economy and Early Modern Women,” a forum within  Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. III, September 30, 2008.

“Christina’s Tempting: Sexual Desire and Women’s Sanctity,” in  Christina of Markyate: A Twelfth-Century Holy Woman, ed. Samuel Fanous and Henrietta Leyser_ (New York: Routledge, 2004), 184-196.

Grants and Awards