Focusing on Florence, Thomas Kuehn demonstrates the formative influence of law on Italian society during the Renaissance, especially in the spheres of family and women. Kuehn's use of legal sources along with letters, diaries, and contemporary accounts allows him to present a compelling image of the social processes that affected the shape and function of the law. The numerous law courts of Italian city-states constantly devised and revised statutes. Kuehn traces the permutations of these laws, then examines their use by Florentines to arbitrate conflict and regulate social behavior regarding such issues as kinship, marriage, business, inheritance, illlegitimacy, and gender. Ranging from one man's embittered denunciation of his father to another's reaction to his kinsmen's rejection of him as illegitimate, Law, Family, and Women provides fascinating evidence of the tensions riddling family life in Renaissance Florence. Kuehn shows how these same tensions, often articulated in and through the law, affected women.
He examines the role of the mundualdus--a male legal guardian for women--in Florence, the control of fathers over their married daughters, and issues of inheritance by and through women. An ambitious attempt to reformulate the agenda of Renaissance social history, Kuehn's work will be of value to both legal anthropologists and social historians. Thomas Kuehn is professor of history at Clemson University.