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Chapter Summary

When in the late fourteenth century the officials of the consistory court of York ordered Richard Machonne to return home and treat his wife “decently and honourably,” they were appealing to Richard’s sense of identity as a man in late medieval Yorkshire. Spousal abuse in the context of English communities in the late Middle Ages was as much about male honour as it was about wives as victims. The discourse of marriage placed husbands in late medieval England in a precarious position. Wives, too, found themselves challenged by this imposing discourse. Collectively, the court records of both the north and the south present a grim and gruesome image of late medieval society. This representation is an inevitable consequence of the choice of court records as evidence of daily life. By nature, court records reveal the dark side of the medieval era.

Keywords: consistory court; court records; English communities; late medieval Yorkshire; male honour; Richard Machonne; spousal abuse; wives



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