Legal historians. You know who you are.
In the year 1397 in the parish of Tuttington (Norfolk), a woman whose name is lost to history, frantic to rid herself of the evil spirit that possessed her, turned to suicide. She attempted first to hang herself, but her husband discovered her while life remained in her body, cut down the rope, and comforted her. A few weeks later she tried once…[Read more]
Sara Margaret Butler deposited “Lies, Damned Lies, and the Life of Saint Lucy: Three Cases of Judicial Separation from the Late Medieval Court of York.” in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 2 months, 2 weeks ago
An examination of three cases of judicial separation from the late medieval court of York.
Since the publication of Philippe Aries’ Centuries of Childhood in the early 1960’s, historians of the family have been intrigued by the prospect of a history of change in familial sentiment. 1 Aries’ study of attitudes about children from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century, based primarily on art and material evidence, demonstrates…[Read more]
Sara Margaret Butler deposited “‘I will never consent to be wedded with you!’: Coerced Marriage in the Courts of Medieval England.” in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 2 months, 2 weeks ago
This paper asks us to rethink the boundaries between consent and coercion in medieval England. From gentle persuasion to threats and abuse, coercion was a part of the courtship process. Although late medieval society expected parents to play an active, even heavy-handed, role in matchmaking, the English church recognized the possibility that…[Read more]
Sara Margaret Butler deposited “The Law as a Weapon in Marital Disputes: Evidence from the Late Medieval Court of Chancery, 1424- 1529.” in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 2 months, 2 weeks ago
When Isabelle, widow of Richard Vergeons, commissioned the writing of a bill of complaint to Chancery at the end of the fifteenth century, she was clearly at the end of her tether. Six months before the writing of the petition, the wife of Thomas Hyll, a wire monger of London, approached the petitioner’s husband, begging for ‘‘secour and saufg…[Read more]
Sara Margaret Butler deposited “Abortion by Assault: Violence against Pregnant Women in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-century England.” in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 2 months, 2 weeks ago
According to medieval common law, assault against a pregnant woman causing miscarriage after the fi rst trimester was homicide. Some scholars have argued, however, that in practice English jurors refused to acknowledge assaults of this nature as homicide. The underlying argument is that because abortion by assault is a crime against women, male…[Read more]
Sunday, January 23, 1390 was a day that Ralph Peioun of Wotton (Lincs.) and his wife most likely never forgot. On this day, their one-year-old son, Richard, presumably curious and headstrong like most young toddlers his age, made an unfortunate choice of playthings when he picked up a pair of shears and wounded himself in the throat, a fatal…[Read more]
When confronted with cases of self-killing, medieval jurors had to contend with a vast array of often conflicting concerns, from religious and folkloric condemnations of the act of suicide, to fears for the welfare of the family of the dead, and to coping with royal confiscations of a felon’s goods. All of these factors had a profound impact on t…[Read more]
Scholars of the medieval family would generally agree that the lot of the medieval wife was not an easy one. Medieval husbands held the upper hand in the power relationship, both legally and socially. Although Lawrence Stone’s view of niarried life in the Middle Ages as “brutal and often hostile, with little communication, [and] much wife-beating”…[Read more]
The use of the term “community” in historical studies continues to present problems for many medievalists. Myriad studies have emphasized the inadequacy of the term when describing medieval society. Microstudies of manors and villages, especially in the English context, by historians Barbara A. Hanawalt, J. Ambrose Raftis, and Sherri Olson (am…[Read more]
Art historian Barbara Kellum’s 1973 article on child murder in medieval England paints a picture of a world replete with ruthless and murderous single mothers who escaped the legal consequences of their actions due to an indifferent court system that chose to turn a blind eye to the deaths of young children. Despite the overstated tone of her w…[Read more]
The history of homicidal insanity in the courts of law of medieval England.
Given the hurdles one faced in trying to stay healthy in later medieval England, it should come as no surprise that the medieval English placed a premium on competent medicine. As Carole Rawcliffe has argued, “medieval life was beset by constant threats to health arising from poor diet (at both ends of the social spectrum), low levels of h…[Read more]
Sara Margaret Butler deposited Sacred People, Sacred Spaces: Evidence of Parish Respect and Contempt for the pre-Reformation Clergy.” in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Conflicts between parish clergy and parishioners in late medieval England have been described as acts of both anticlericalism and proclericalism (that is, an attempt to compel clergy into living up to the parishioners’ increasingly high expectations of them). This paper hopes to expand our knowledge of parish conflict by turning to an o…[Read more]
With regard to English common law, medieval women were able to participate in the curial process in only a limited way. This is not true of women as defendants: women could be sued for almost any civil or criminal plaint, but their privileges as plaintiffs were broadly curtailed by marital status and cultural expectation. The legal fiction of…[Read more]
In the year 1304, Matilda Bonamy of Guernsey, a young woman from one of the Anglo-Norman island’smost established and affluent families, found herself in a predicament familiar to many of today’s youth. A liaison with Jordan Clouet, also from a family of long provenance in Guernsey if not as comfortable, had left her pregnant. To Matilda the sol…[Read more]
Rebecca Ruth Gould deposited “Words That Offend Vs. Actions That Harm – Antisemitism, Racism, Islamophobia with Rebecca Gould,” Just Thinking Out Loud (podcast + video interview) in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 1 year, 2 months ago
Is there a dichotomy between tolerance and free speech? A discussion on free speech, hate crimes, and tolerance within the context of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and racism, along with the debate within the UK around the governmental definitions for these forms of bigotry.
This essay considers the category of “Jewish law” in Jewish studies while inviting scholarly and historiographic assessment of the ways that Judaism’s link to law has come to appear as obvious. Considering that our present concepts of law are invariably linked to a geographically and temporally parochial “mythology of modern law,” the essay sounds…[Read more]
Rebecca Ruth Gould deposited “Justice Deferred: Legal Duplicity and the Scapegoat Mentality in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Jim Crow America,” Law & Literature (2019) in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 1 year, 7 months ago
Although best known as a poet, African-American writer Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) developed a unique voice in his fiction. This essay explores the bifurcation Dunbar discerned between the law as an instrument of justice and as a stabilizer of the segregationist status quo in Jim Crow America. Dunbar’s characters systematically scapegoated…[Read more]
This essay examines Giambattista Vico’s philology as a contribution to democratic legitimacy. I outline three steps in Vico’s account of the historical and political development of philological knowledge: first, his merger of philosophy and philology, and the effects of that merger on the relative claims of reason and authority; second, his use…[Read more]
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