1st Edition

Women in the Medieval Common Law c.1200–1500

By Gwen Seabourne Copyright 2021
    192 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    192 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book examines the view of women held by medieval common lawyers and legislators, and considers medieval women’s treatment by and participation in the processes of the common law. Surveying a wide range of points of contact between women and the common law, from their appearance (or not) in statutes, through their participation (or not) as witnesses, to their treatment as complainants or defendants, it argues for closer consideration of women within the standard narratives of classical legal history, and for re-examination of some previous conclusions on the relationship between women and the common law. It will appeal to scholars and students of medieval history, as well as those interested in legal history, gender studies and the history of women.

    Introduction: women, the common law and the legal historians 1

    PART I

    Unions and divisions: women and the common law 11

    1 ‘Their position is inferior to that of men’: differentiation, inclusion, omission 14

    2 Unstable constructions: unity, disunity, property and favour in common law thought on women 34


    Audible and inaudible; credible and not credible: women in thelegal process 53

    3 ‘By the mouth of man’: women as non-party actors in litigation 55


    Women’s complaints and complaints of women 79

    4 Voice, agency and ‘playing the victim’ 84

    5 Limits and accommodation 93

    6 Responsible and irresponsible women: the female defendant 121

    Conclusion: the future of women’s legal past 158


    Gwen Seabourne is Professor of Legal History in the School of Law, University of Bristol, UK. She specialises in medieval legal history, and has written on medieval crime, economic regulation and medieval women.