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.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Women, the common law and the legal historians
Part I: Unions and divisions: women and the common law
1. ‘Their position is inferior to that of men’: differentiation, inclusion, omission
2. Unstable constructions: unity, disunity, property and favour in common law thought on women
Part II: Audible and inaudible; credible and not credible: women in the legal process
3. ‘By the mouth of man’: women as non-party actors in litigation
Part III: Women’s complaints and complaints of women
4. Voice, agency and ‘playing the victim’
5. Limits and accommodation
6. Responsible and irresponsible women: the female defendant
Conclusion: The future of women’s legal past
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.