Women brewed and sold most of the ale consumed in medieval England, but after 1350, men slowly took over the trade. By 1600, most brewers in London were male, and men also dominated the trade in many towns and villages. This book asks how, when, and why brewing ceased to be women's work and instead became a job for men. Employing a wide variety of sources and methods, Bennett vividly describes how brewsters (that is, female brewers) gradually left the trade. She also offers a compelling account of the endurance of patriarchy during this time of dramatic change.
Bennett's study is bold in its sweep, thoughtful in its analysis, and provocative in its argument. Its conclusions offer an important challenge to prevailing views of women's work, one that will reshape discussion of the subject for years to come. The questions that it leaves open and to which scholars will now have to address themselves concern the relationship between brewing and other sorts of work in which women were engaged. Bennett has initiated an important discussion that should produce a deeper, more nuanced understanding of women's work in the Middle Ages.