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The Acceptability Of Marital Violence: Six Case Studies

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Chapter Summary

The evidence of the church courts helps to reconstruct medieval perceptions of acceptable domestic violence. While cause papers exist for both ecclesiastical provinces (York and Canterbury), the York papers are by far the more complete and revealing where cases of divorce a mensa et thoro are concerned. For the entire province of York in the later medieval period, there are only six files which may be identified as applications for separation on these grounds. The surviving documentation for judicial separations varies. Some offer only a few membranes of witness depositions; one case contains a stunning sixty-two documents. In three of the six cases, the judgement has not survived. In the remaining three, two were decided in favour of the plaintiff. In all six cases, the victim of abuse was female. These six cases are invaluable sources of collective narratives of marital violence.

Keywords: church courts; later medieval period; marital disharmony; marital violence; York



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