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Types And Frequency Of Abuse In The Medieval Law Courts

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Chapter Summary

During the Middle Ages, bigamy occurred much more frequently than today, owing to the fluctuating definition of medieval marriage. Medieval marriages might be ambiguous-the only legal requirement was an exchange of vows with no fixed vocabulary expressing mutual consent in the present tense. This chapter looks at the more easily documented (and thus more quantifiable) kinds of abuse-cases of marital disharmony in which the levels of violence exceeded the capacity of family, friends and neighbours. Unable to cope with some situations of abuse, family, friends and neighbours used their powers to present violent couples before a court of law where they were required to resolve their difficulties in a public and, somewhat, humiliating fashion. Later medieval England did not treat spousal abuse as a matter of little significance. Both the church and the manor provided options for community involvement in the regulation of domestic violence.

Keywords: Later medieval England; marital disharmony; medieval marriage; Middle ages; spousal abuse; violence

10.1163/ej.9789004156340.i-287.9
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