Conflicts Over Gender in Civic Courts

Carol Lansing

in The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe

Published in print August 2013 | ISBN: 9780199582174
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Conflicts Over Gender in Civic Courts

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  • History
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Gender and Sexuality



Civic court records are a rare source for medieval social experience and attitudes, including low-status people who do not appear in most records. Because the requirements for proof in Roman law included fama, reputation, and status, witnesses in court discussed and at times differed over which aspects of a person’s behavior determined their honesty and respectability. This could become an implicit debate over gender expectations. Can a concubine be considered an honest woman? The article explores a 1295 case in which a wealthy politician was charged with the rape of a woman who lived as a concubine. The case hinged on the complex medieval legal understandings of rape. It is also a vivid example of a power struggle waged in and out of the court, involving both bribery and judicial torture. Ultimately, it reveals how class and gender expectations for men and women influenced the court process.

Keywords: rape; fama; reputation; concubines; torture; Roman law

Article.  8162 words. 

Subjects: History ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Gender and Sexuality

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