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Regulating Marital Violence: The Family And The Community

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Chapter Summary

By the very nature of the process, legal records permit a glimpse into abnormal, rather than typical, behaviour. Weapon-wielding, homicidal spouses, as well as threats of excommunication and execution were not part of the normal process of dealing with spousal abuse. Certainly, before the mid-fourteenth century, marital violence did not frequently propel couples into the courtroom for a judicial solution; even after this period, couples seldom sought legal resolution for their marital difficulties. The nature of English village life, in fact, guaranteed the involvement of the wider community in family problems. Living in densely populated villages, friends and neighbours had comprehensive knowledge of one another’s private lives. Even if the records do not always highlight the involvement of family and friends, both intervened regularly in matters of spousal abuse. Their actions speak to communal beliefs and expectations of appropriate marital behaviour current in later medieval England.

Keywords: English village life; family problems; homicidal spouses; later medieval England; legal records; marital violence; spousal abuse; weapon-wielding



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