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Law, Marriage, and Society in the Later Middle Ages: Arguments about Marriage in Five Courts

Law, Marriage, and Society in the Later Middle Ages: Arguments about Marriage in Five Courts

By: Charles Donahue (author)Hardback

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This is a study of marriage litigation (with some reference to sexual offenses) in the archiepiscopal court of York (1300-1500) and the episcopal courts of Ely (1374-1381), Paris (1384-1387), Cambrai (1438-1453), and Brussels (1448-1459). All these courts were, for the most part, correctly applying the late medieval canon law of marriage, but statistical analysis of the cases and results confirms that there were substantial differences both in the types of cases the courts heard and the results they reached. Marriages in England in the later middle ages were often under the control of the parties to the marriage, whereas those in northern France and southern Netherlands were often under the control of the parties' families and social superiors. Within this broad generalization the book brings to light patterns of late medieval men and women manipulating each other and the courts to produce extraordinarily varied results.

About Author

Charles Donahue, Jr., is the Paul A. Freund Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and president of the American Society of Legal History until December 2007. Among other books, he is the coauthor or coeditor of Select Cases of the Ecclesiastical Courts of the Province of Canterbury, c. 1200-1301; Year Books of Richard II: 6 Richard II, 1382-1383; The Records of the Medieval Ecclesiastical Courts, and Cases and Materials on Property: An Introduction to the Concept and the Institution. He is also the author of more than seventy articles in the fields of ancient, medieval, and early modern legal history. Donahue teaches legal history in both the Law School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard and has taught at the University of Michigan, the London School of Economics, the Vrije Universiteit te Brussel, Columbia University, the University of California at Berkeley, Boston College, and Cornell University. Donahue is vice-president and literary director of the Ames Foundation and a councillor of the Selden Society (UK). He is a life member of the American Law Institute and the Medieval Academy of America, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a previous Guggenheim Fellow.


1. The background rules and institutions; 2. Lying witnesses and social reality: four English marriage cases in the high middle ages; 3. Statistics - the court of York, 1300-1500; 4. Story patterns in the court of York in the fourteenth century; 5. Story patterns in the court of York in the fifteenth century; 6. Ely; 7. Paris; 8. Cambrai - the courts and the numbers; 9. Cambrai and Brussels - the content of the sentences; 10. Divorce a mensa et thoro and salvo iure thori (separation); 11. Social practice, formal rule, and the medieval canon law of incest; 12. Broader comparisons: English and Franco-Belgian marriage cases in the later middle ages and a glimpse at the rest of western Europe; Epilogue and conclusion.

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780521877282
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 696
  • ID: 9780521877282
  • weight: 1090
  • ISBN10: 0521877288

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