The ideology of patriarchy has affected the ways in which historians view and approach the past and it has been influential in shaping women''s history. It is little more than 20 years since historians of early modern England began the study of women as a subject worthy of special examination. This oversight derives from a twofold methodological and interpretative misconception. The influence of literary critical theory, particularly that of postmodern feminist theory, and a certain expectation that historical evidence should be approached as ‘text'', has had the effect of limiting historical research about the lived realities of women. In this book, the influence of feminist critical theory on the research and interpretation of gender is explored, the radical changes in religion, in popular belief, economy and society and the negative effects of such radical changes on the status of women are established, and women''s resistance to the challenges to their autonomy, as it was expressed through the law courts is ascertained.