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Stolen Women in Medieval England
Rape, Abduction, and Adultery, 1100–1500

Part of Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series

  • Date Published: October 2012
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9781139786416

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  • This study of illicit sexuality in medieval England explores links between marriage and sex, law and disorder, and property and power. Some medieval Englishwomen endured rape or were kidnapped for forced marriages, yet most ravished women were married and many 'wife-thefts' were not forced kidnappings but cases of adultery fictitiously framed as abduction by abandoned husbands. In pursuing the themes of illicit sexuality and non-normative marital practices, this work analyses the nuances of the key Latin term raptus and the three overlapping offences that it could denote: rape, abduction and adultery. This investigation broadens our understanding of the role of women in the legal system; provides a means for analysing male control over female bodies, sexuality and access to the courts; and reveals ways in which female agency could, on occasion, manoeuvre around such controls.

    • Offers a comprehensive overview of female ravishment, from forced rape to consensual elopement, in medieval England
    • Presents a scholarly treatment of an emotive subject, dealing with rape victims with sensitivity, but acknowledging that some women feigned ravishment to elope
    • Provides an interdisciplinary analysis of a comprehensive database of unpublished sources
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… offers a rich analysis subdivided into topics that include rape, elopement, forced abduction, adultery, and false accusations … Dunn displays an admirable ability in scrupulous analysis of court records and legislation, attending to the interests of lawmakers as well as all potentially interested parties … Above all, one finishes this book wanting to hear a great deal more from Caroline Dunn.' Sara McDougall, The Medieval Review

    'Drawing on an impressive selection of primary sources, Caroline Dunn's Stolen Women in Medieval England … examines male control and female agency through an investigation of several different types of sexual offenses … this book lays a strong groundwork for further review of female agency in the Middle Ages.' Rutgers Book Review Journal

    'The strength of Dunn's study lies in her cogent analysis of sources and how she connects this evidence to changes in the legal statutes and culture in England … [it] offers new insights on the crimes of rape and abduction as well as the clever ways in which the laity maneuvered in and out of marital unions.' Medieval Feminist Forum

    'Stolen Women offers exceptional thoroughness, subtlety, and precision and will be hard to replace as the new standard work on ravishment in later medieval English law.' Kim M. Phillips, Speculum

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2012
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9781139786416
    • contains: 1 b/w illus. 8 tables
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction
    1. Laws and legal definitions
    2. Rape
    3. Abduction and forced marriage
    4. Elopement abductions
    5. Adultery
    6. Retaliatory abductions and malicious legal proceedings
    Conclusion
    Appendix I: ravishment legislation
    Appendix II: sources of ravishment cases
    Bibliography.

  • Author

    Caroline Dunn, Clemson University, South Carolina
    Caroline Dunn is Assistant Professor of History at Clemson University, South Carolina.

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