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3 Learned Men and Skillful Matrons: Medical Expertise and the Forensics of Rape in the Middle Ages

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Chapter Summary

This chapter tackles two basic questions: first, which medical ideas (in terms of gynaecology, anatomy, or physiology) did medieval law connect with the crime of rape, and second, what role did medical professionals play in the theoretical conceptualization as well as the actual juridical prosecution of rape? It argues that only by the invention of a conception of rape that puts consent at the heart of the crime did medical expertise become theoretically relevant as a means of proof. The chapter sketches the place of both learned and practical medical experts in medieval legal culture, highlighting their relevance to the theory and practice of rape jurisdiction. It addresses whether the expertise of female practitioners was not so much a general practice in rape jurisdiction, as often suggested, but rather limited to two specific sorts of cases, namely those involving the loss of virginity and those involving children.

Keywords: female practitioners; medical expertise; medical professionals; medieval law; rape jurisdiction



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