How legal identity of women in Medieval Europe during the twelfth and thirteen centuries reflect and influence other aspects of their identity.

How legal identity of women in Medieval Europe during the twelfth and thirteen centuries reflect and influence other aspects of their identity.

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The laws of the medieval time period offer a partial answer regarding the legal rights of women. They offer insight of how women may have lived their lives, which were dictated by the law. With a closer analysis, they can also offer clues of how women identified themselves legally and in society. Not much was written about women during this time period, most women were not encouraged to write, nor did they keep personal journals. In result, it is quite difficult to get a grasp on any identities women associated themselves with. However, court rolls, personal accounts, and analysis from scholarly authors offer an in-depth insight. This paper will focus on the twelfth and thirteenth century region of Western Europe. Three issues will be addressed; how a woman’s identity is formed, how it differed from men, and how legal identity of a woman reflected and influenced other aspects of their identity. The legal identity of gender made women identify themselves as inferior, powerless, silent, and unequal. In comparison, Gratian’s text on church laws will also be analyzed, as it offers an opposing argument of women identified as equals to men in Church Law.
The identity of inferiority for women was constructed before the Medieval Ages. Medieval law was influenced by Roman law, whose concepts constructed the ecclesiastical, secular law, and Church laws dictating society . Roman law was patriarchal; women could appear in court but the encouraged custom was to have themselves represented by a man, since they believed women should uphold the traditional value of modesty. It paved the road for medieval society to create their own form of Roman law. Ecclesiastical law placed women in a secondary place in creation based on her part of the Origi...


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...e, 11.
Bennett and Karras, The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, 136.
Bennett and Karas, The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, 136.
Shahar, The Fourth Estate, 93.
Bennett and Karras, The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, 140.
Shahar, The Fourth Estate, 17.
Emilie Amt, “Gratian: Cannon Law on Marriage,” in Women’s Lives in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook (New York:Routledge, 2009), 79.
Amt, Women’s Lives in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook, 80-81.
Cordelia Beattie and Matthew Frank Stevens, “Married Women, Contracts and Coverture in Late Medieval England,” in Married Women and the Law in Pre Modern Northwest Europe (New York: Boydell & Brewer, 2013), 134-136.
J.C.P. Goldberg, introduction to Medieval Women and the Law, by Noel James Menuge (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press,2003), ix.

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