Medieval Prostitution

Overview

In fifteenth-century France, public prostitution was condoned by all sectors of society. Clerics and municipal officials not only tolerated prostitution, but were often its principal beneficiaries, owning and frequenting brothels quite openly. The explanation of this remarkable state of affairs is just one aspect of Jacques Rossiaud's vivid reconstruction of a part of medieval society that has previously received little attention.

Drawing upon extensive research in medieval ...

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Overview

In fifteenth-century France, public prostitution was condoned by all sectors of society. Clerics and municipal officials not only tolerated prostitution, but were often its principal beneficiaries, owning and frequenting brothels quite openly. The explanation of this remarkable state of affairs is just one aspect of Jacques Rossiaud's vivid reconstruction of a part of medieval society that has previously received little attention.

Drawing upon extensive research in medieval archives, the author shows that most fifteenth-century Frenchwomen could expect a life of constant subjugation to male desire. Rape, for instance, was common and considered only a minor crime. He then considers whether public prostitution might paradoxically have been seen by the secular and religious authorities as a means of social control, and of preserving marital stability: the virtue of wives and daughters was best protected by the existence of public brothels, where sexual urges could be satisfied without adultery or rape. Jacques Rossiaud also describes the social background of the prostitutes, brothel-keepers, pimps, and their clientele, providing a vivid overview of the context in which medieval prostitution existed.

Medieval Prostitution will be of interest to medieval historians, as well as to students of the history of the family and sexuality.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Rossiaud (history, U. of Lyon) argues that the prevalence of rape, and the church's redefinition of sexual sins because of depopulation by the plague, were factors in the public toleration and support of prostitution in southeastern France in the 1400's. No bibliography. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From Barnes & Noble
Even though the Church was a prime mover in medieval society, life in 15th-century France was fraught with sexual paradox. Public prostitution was not only tolerated but condoned by all sectors of society, including clerics and municipal officials. In an atmosphere where rape was commonplace and considered only a minor crime, women were frequent victims of male violence and desire. The author proposes that public prostitution may in fact have been viewed by secular and religious authorities as a means of social control and of preserving marital stability--a means by which the virtue of wives and daughters was actually protected. Rossiaud examines the background of the prostitute, brothel-keeper, and pimp, as well as the social climate that encouraged even respectable men to use their services. A valuable resource for the historian, sociologist, or interested general reader, this book reconstructs a little-researched part of the medieval world.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jacques Rossiaud is Professor of History at the University of Lyon.
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Table of Contents

Part I: Prostitution, Youth and Society:.

1. Urban Prostitution.

2. Sexual Order and the Subversion of Youth.

3. Victims, Procuresses and the Prostitutes.

4. Prostitution and Society.

Part II: Prostitution and the Evolution of Social Attitudes:.

5. The Relaxation in Social Mores.

6. A Victory of the Flesh.

7. Nature Besieged by War and Pestilence.

8. The 'Cult of the Good Time' and the Theme of the Compassionate Christ.

9. Urban Disorder and the Preaching Missions.

10. A Summing Up: Prostitution as a Mirror Image of the City.

Appendices.

Index.

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