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Stolen Women in Medieval England: Rape, Abduction, and Adultery, 1100?1500

Overview

This study of illicit sexuality in medieval England explores links between marriage and sex, law and disorder, and property and power. Some medieval Englishwomen endured rape or were kidnapped for forced marriages, yet most ravished women were married and many 'wife-thefts' were not forced kidnappings but cases of adultery fictitiously framed as abduction by abandoned husbands. In pursuing the themes of illicit sexuality and non-normative marital practices, this work analyses the nuances of the key Latin term ...

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Stolen Women in Medieval England: Rape, Abduction, and Adultery, 1100-1500

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Overview

This study of illicit sexuality in medieval England explores links between marriage and sex, law and disorder, and property and power. Some medieval Englishwomen endured rape or were kidnapped for forced marriages, yet most ravished women were married and many 'wife-thefts' were not forced kidnappings but cases of adultery fictitiously framed as abduction by abandoned husbands. In pursuing the themes of illicit sexuality and non-normative marital practices, this work analyses the nuances of the key Latin term raptus and the three overlapping offences that it could denote: rape, abduction and adultery. This investigation broadens our understanding of the role of women in the legal system; provides a means for analysing male control over female bodies, sexuality and access to the courts; and reveals ways in which female agency could, on occasion, manoeuvre around such controls.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Highly recommended."
Choice

"… offers a rich analysis subdivided into topics that include rape, elopement, forced abduction, adultery, and false accusations … Dunn displays an admirable ability in scrupulous analysis of court records and legislation, attending to the interests of lawmakers as well as all potentially interested parties … Above all, one finishes this book wanting to hear a great deal more from Caroline Dunn."
Sara McDougall, The Medieval Review

"The strength of Dunn’s study lies in her cogent analysis of sources and how she connects this evidence to changes in the legal statutes and culture in England … [it] offers new insights on the crimes of rape and abduction as well as the clever ways in which the laity maneuvered in and out of marital unions."
Medieval Feminist Forum

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Caroline Dunn is Assistant Professor of History at Clemson University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Laws and legal definitions; 2. Rape; 3. Abduction and forced marriage; 4. Elopement abductions; 5. Adultery; 6. Retaliatory abductions and malicious legal proceedings; Conclusion; Appendix I: ravishment legislation; Appendix II: sources of ravishment cases; Bibliography.

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