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3 Assault and Lesser Violence

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Chapter Summary

Aggression and violence directed at another person's property was an expected and well-known phenomenon in local communities. This chapter argues that violence was at the core of Swedish medieval society. It was seen as a way to solve conflicts but also as a way to define gender and measure social status. The chapter explores the variation with which the laws describe different injuries and wounds. These descriptions show an elaborate system for evaluating assault: the severity of the injuries was literally read on the body of the victim. The concept of manhelgd has a very important place in the legal, ideological, and social structure of the provincial laws. Women's status as victims of violence was also redefined: they were no longer judged by their physical and social inability to defend themselves. A parallel redefinition of masculinity became necessary when women became detached from the protection of their male relatives.

Keywords: assault; provincial laws; Swedish medieval society; violence; women



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