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Medieval Crime and Social Control

Barbara A. Hanawalt
Davvid Wallace
Volume: 16
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttv1nm
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  • Book Info
    Medieval Crime and Social Control
    Book Description:

    Crime is a matter of interpretation, especially in the Middle Ages, when societies faced with new ideas and pressures were continually forced to rethink what a crime was-and what was a crime. These essays reveal how various forces in medieval society interacted and competed in interpreting and influencing mechanisms for social control. Contributors: Christopher Cannon, Elizabeth Fowler, Louise O. Fradenburg, Claude Gauvard, James H. Landman, William Perry Marvin, William Ian Miller, Louise Mirrer, Walter Prevenier.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8925-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    Barbara A. Hanawalt and David Wallace

    Crime,a term that enters Middle English from Old French, derives ultimately from the Latincernere(to decide, discern, pass judgment). It is hence always bound up with matters of interpretation; such matters always subtend the most basic procedures for tracking down, trying, and punishing those who commit the basic felonies of larceny, burglary, robbery, arson, homicide, rape, and receiving of unknown felons. Medieval societies were continually redefining the actions that constituted these felonies; their legal definitions shifted markedly with variations of place and time. Many people took a role in formulating such definitions: officials administering the law, victims of...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Fear of Crime in Late Medival France
    (pp. 1-48)
    Claude Gauvard

    The fear of crime permeated French society in the late Middle Ages. The protracted disorder resulting from the Hundred Years’ War, the civil war between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs, and the increased mobility of the population as a result of war, plague, and widening economic networks induced a perception that heinous crimes were on the increase. The population believed that crimes such as murder, arson, rape, highway robbery, incest, and sodomy struck at the very heart of society and threatened to tear apart the social fabric. The clergy saw these stereotypical crimes as God’s punishment for the sins of...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Needful Things
    (pp. 49-69)
    Louise O. Fradenburg

    This essay explores the relevance of the concept of need to some of the questions that historians of medieval crime have posed for themselves. I will be interested in how the concept of need has structured thinking about the relation of crime to poverty, and about the relationship of crime and poverty, in turn, to discourses of charity. In considering the notion of the “needful thing,” I will also be addressing some issues about subjectivity in relation to the law: how the law both emanates from and structures desire, on the level of the subject and on the level of...

  7. CHAPTER 3 In Defense of Revenge
    (pp. 70-89)
    William Ian Miller

    One of the risks of studying the Icelandic sagas and loving them, is, precisely, loving them. And what is one loving when one loves them? The wit, the entertainment provided by perfectly told tales? And just how are these entertaining tales and this wit separable from their substance: honor, revenge, individual assertion, and yes, some softer values, too, like peacefulness and prudence? Yet one suspects, and quite rightly, that the softer values are secondary and utterly dependent on being responsive to the problems engendered by the rougher values of honor and vengeance. Is it possible to study the sagas and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 “The Doom of Resoun” Accommodating Lay Interpretation in late Madieval England
    (pp. 90-123)

    Bishop Reginald Pecock and Sir John Fortescue share, among many things, an interest in lay interpretation and the desirability of maintaining—or tolerating—a lay interpretive role in ecclesiastic doctrinal debate and common law adjudication.¹ Pecock and Fortescue also share a concern with defending their respective institutions of the church and the English common law from what they perceive as a detrimental reliance on extreme forms of physical coercion in place or in suppression of lay interpretive voices. Neither writer denies coercion a role in the maintenance of institutional autority; instead, the issue for both is the effect of too...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Chaucer’s Hard Cases
    (pp. 124-142)
    Elizabeth Fowler

    Dominion (Latindominium) is a fundamental concept of medieval and early modern political philosophy, and for all its importance, it is exquisitely volatile. The topic of dominion lies at the center of the most important debates in European jurisprudence: it is an issue that retains its urgency across the span that stretches from the investiture controversies of the High Middle Ages to the fourteenth-century conflicts over religious poverty, and from the cultural, medical, and commercial crises of European colonial expansion to the Reformation. Theories of dominion consider the sources, limits, institutions, and justification—in a word, the constitution—of power.¹...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The “Unfaithful Wife" in Medival Spanish Literature and Law
    (pp. 143-155)
    Louise Mirrer

    No image of woman has been more frequently developed or cited in the history of Spanish literature than that of the unfaithful wife.¹ Collapsing the common notion of female lust as insatiable and uncontrollable² with the common definition of woman as “man’s confusion,” meaning that she is treacherous and deceitful,³ the image appears and reappears across a broad spectrum of literary genres, from early lyric to contemporary drama.

    In the Middle Ages, the image runs like a rich vein through popular as well as learned texts. For example, the medieval CastilianRefeanewor proverb collection proffers women who deceive their...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Rights of Medival English Women Crime and the Issue of Representation
    (pp. 156-185)
    Christopher Cannon

    The written record of the Middle Ages resists our efforts to reconstruct what Carolyn Dinshaw describes in a clarifying phrase as “lived lives,” and it seems most to thwart us when the lives we seek to reconstruct are the lives lived by women.¹ Inherent in the record that we use for such reconstruction, says George Duby, is a kind of “screen between our eyes and what our eyes want to see”: we may “measure this distance” and “perceive the distortion,” or we “must give up the positivist dream of attaining past reality” and recognize that “this screen can never be...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Violence against Women in Fifteenth-Century France and the Burgundian State
    (pp. 186-203)
    Walter Prevenier

    In this essay, I discuss the existence of thesystemsbehind violence against women, especially the ways in which systems of ideology, of belief, and of prejudice inform patterns of violent behavior, and how systems of social control enable repression or prevention of these violent crimes. The study of these systems can be elucidated through two approaches. First, I will look at the legal tools for prosecuting and judging crimes against women. Second, the interpretation of individual cases is enhanced by reading them with reference to the analysis of narrative proposed by Roland Barthes, Noam Chomsky, Jacques Derrida, and the...

  13. CHAPTER 9 The Host, the Law, and the Ambiguous Space of Medieval London Taverns
    (pp. 204-223)
    Barbara A. Hanawalt

    The most notable depiction in Middle English of an innkeepertaverner appears inThe Canterbury Talesin the character of the Host. Harry Bailly’s Tabard Inn, where the pilgrims gather, suggests an institution that is replete with ambiguity and contradictory images. In theProloguethe Tabard is described as a “gentyle tavern” rather than one of the sordid establishments that were common in London and Southwark. Its clientele is a varied one that represents regular and secular clergy, nuns, rural laity ranging in social degree from knight to plowman, and a large contingent of Londoners of different ranks and occupations. Not...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Slaughter and Romance Hunting Reserves in Late Medieval England
    (pp. 224-252)
    William Perry Marvin

    Among discursively defined and contested spaces in medieval rural England, hunting reserves long figured as foci of significant material and ideological investment. William of Normandy must be credited with having imported this once Prankish institution into England in the form of royal forests, a policy that was to have a significant impact on English constitutional history.¹ Of comparable cultural moment was how this institution of reserves set a precedent for varied imitation. The next centuries saw a gradual proliferation of privately chartered hunting grounds (parks and zones defined by free chase and free warren), to the extent that by the...

  15. Contributors
    (pp. 253-254)
  16. Index
    (pp. 255-259)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 260-260)