Wanton Wenches and Wayward Wives: Peasants and Illicit Sex in Early Seventeenth Century England, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Wanton Wenches and Wayward Wives

Peasants and Illicit Sex in Early Seventeenth Century England, 1st Edition

By G. R. Quaife


282 pages

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Paperback: 9780367174743
pub: 2020-07-15
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pub: 2019-01-28
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pub: 2019-01-17
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Originally published in 1979. This highly detailed study of illicit sex amongst the peasantry of Somerset between 1601 and 1660 recreates the atmosphere of the period and questions a number of previously accepted hypotheses. Based on the depositions presented to the county and regional courts during this period, it sheds as much light on prevailing village attitudes as it does on the specific discussion matter. Outlining the precarious existence of the peasant and the supervision of sexual morality, the book looks at pre-marital sex, pregnancy, prostitution, masturbation, contraception, rape, homosexuality and incest, along with the prevailing punishments of the time.

This extensively researched work combines both demographic and literary-based analyses, with analytical and anecdotal approaches to the subject. It presents a rich source of social history, examining and questioning the role of Christian morality as an important factor in influencing the sexual habits of the peasant.

Table of Contents

Preface 1. Somerset and the Peasant World 2. Illicit Sex - Its Nature, Discovery and Extent 3. The Consenting Spinster 4. Pregnancy for the Single Woman 5. Attitudes to Adultery 6. Widows, Prostitutes and the ‘Unruly Woman’ 7. A Miscellany of Sexual Practice 8. The Consequences of Illicit Sex 9. Bastardy - Maintenance of the Child and Punishment Orders 10. Bastardy - The Social Pattern. Conclusion. Notes and Sources. Appendix I: Glossary - West Country Legal and Seventeenth Century Usage. Appendix II: Maps of Somerset

About the Series

Routledge Library Editions: History of Sexuality

Reissuing seven works originally published between 1977 and 1992, this collection offers a varied selection of surveys of historical practices and attitudes to sexuality, from complete reviews of changing attitudes through time, to individual studies of France in the 19th and 20th Centuries and England in the 17th. This set will be of interest in sociology, gender studies, cultural studies and history.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General