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Ecaterina Lung

Abstract

• The aim of this article is to highlight the ways in which women were represented in Byzantine historical works from the sixth to the ninth centuries. These are probably the best sources for a comprehensive understanding of Byzantine society, since they are more vivid, more related to literature than the law codes or archival documents, and less biased than the clergy’s writings. Like “Barbarians,” women were thought to be inferior, irrational, highly emotional, and unable to control their impulses. Byzantine women did not seem to have an identity of their own; they were always thought to be a reflection of a male. Byzantine authors believed that the normal behavior for women was to remain secluded in their houses, but when they actually presented individual women, these were almost always those who did not confine themselves to women’s quarters. A woman’s main avenue of entering written history was to behave like a man, renouncing her gender and acting in an independent manner.

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Envisaging Eternity

Salian Women’s Religious Patronage

Nina Verbanaz

Abstract

The Salian rulers of the German realm in the eleventh century, like other medieval monarchs, maintained a complex relationship with the church. This article examines Salian women’s participation in this relationship. Through founding cathedrals, establishing monasteries, and making donations, Salian women performed traditional queenly activities and helped establish their dynasty as legitimate rulers of the empire. Charter and chronicle evidence reveal the Salian queens’ significant and acknowledged role in the foundation of Speyer Cathedral and their influence in the adoption of the imperial practice of dynastic burial of male and female rulers in its crypt. In addition to the relationship between the Salian women and Speyer Cathedral, this article looks to their charitable donations, attested in chronicles and letters, and discusses in particular Agnes of Poitou’s (d. 1077) deathbed donations. The women of the Salian dynasty created a family identity and memory through active participation in relationships with the church.

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Introduction

Women, Gender, Law, and Remembering Shona Kelly Wray

Linda E. Mitchell

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Misbehaving Women

Trespass and Honor in Late Medieval English Towns

Teresa Phipps

Abstract

England’s medieval town court records reveal significant information on the social and economic relationships of ordinary urban residents. These relationships and conflicts concerning them are particularly evident in trespass litigation: complaints about physical and verbal assaults and the theft of goods. This article uses trespass pleas from the towns of Nottingham, Chester, and Winchester in the fourteenth century to explore the gendered nature of trespass litigation and the implications that this misbehavior had for understandings of honor and reputation in urban society. It demonstrates the ways in which women were involved in trespasses as both complainants and defendants. While women were less frequent litigants than men, the records reveal continuity between their actions in trespasses. This article thus broadens the framework of female honor beyond sexual behavior to encompass interpersonal relationships, a broad range of physical and verbal attacks, and concerns about economic fidelity.

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Miriam Shadis

Abstract

This article examines a series of wills created by members of the royal family of Portugal over three generations, from the mid-twelfth to the mid-thirteenth century. Wills served different functions depending on the political context of their makers: fundamentally pious documents, expressing hopes for salvation, they also worked to shape the political future of the realm. Above all, these wills demonstrate certain features of material life and the deep personal connections enjoyed by members of this large and fractious family.

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Pious Women in a “Den of Scorpions”

The Piety and Patronage of the Eleventh-Century Countesses of Brittany

Amy Livingstone

Abstract

• Chroniclers observing the complex politics of medieval Brittany referred to it as a “den of scorpions.” Eleventh- and early twelfth-century Brittany was politically unstable, with comital power under threat from both local lords and ambitious neighbors. The counts of Brittany depended upon their wives to bolster relationships with other regional powers, including the church, and to create alliances. These women brought with them relationships, ties, and associations to many powerful ecclesiastical foundations. This article examines the experiences of Countess Havoise (r. 1008–1034), Countess Bertha of Blois (c. 1020–1100), Countess Bertha (d. 1085), wife of Geoffrey Grenonat, and Countess Constance (r. 1076–1090), who all used ecclesiastical patronage to solidify the power of husbands and sons. This support allowed women to develop relationships with medieval clerics, making them, like Queen Esther, ideally placed to intervene and negotiate when tensions arose between the counts and the church.

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Mireia Comas-Via

Translator : Delfi I. Nieto-Isabel

Abstract

The social status of married women clearly changed when their husbands died. If we focus on the difficulties that widowhood entailed for women in Barcelona in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, we must include an analysis of their economic situation. The threat of poverty was constant, and in most cases, widows found it difficult to survive. It must be said that this direct link between poverty and widowhood existed only in the case of women: widowers were not similarly embattled. In other words, this was a sort of gendered poverty, because it was their status as “women without a man” that relegated widows to the social condition of the poor. Depending on their economic and social realities, the ways in which widows faced the inherent problems of widowhood and their ability to solve them were completely different.

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Stanley Chojnacki

Abstract

Venetian patrician wives of the late Middle Ages brought to their marriages material goods and family loyalty, both vitally important to the prosperity of conjugal families. The crucial resource was the dowry. During the marriage it sustained the family economy under the husband’s administration. Afterward, as the wife’s inherited property, it returned to her, supporting her widowhood and benefiting her children and kin. The economic connection established by the dowry, which included a corredo, a gift to the groom, encouraged collaboration between families, demonstrated in spouses’ appointment of both agnates and affines as testamentary executors. Moreover, accompanying the financial contents of the dowry were trousseaux consisting of clothing and furnishings for the bride, bestowed by her family and supplemented by the groom. These items further enhanced the relationships forged in marriage by giving visual testimony of a married woman’s position as the bridge between her natal and marital families.

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Niki Megalommati

Abstract

• This article addresses the impact of family law on women during the Middle Byzantine period, 726–1204. Restricted to household roles, marriage provided betrothed women, wives, and mothers with certain legal protections. In the Middle Byzantine period conceptions and practices concerning betrothal, marriage, and dissolution of marriage were not consistent because both the church and the state determined sometimes contrasting rules and laws. The civil law protected women with respect to betrothal and marriage; pressure from the church, however, resulted in harsh laws concerning dissolution of marriage. Canon law nevertheless claimed that both sexes had quite identical legal rights in divorce, and women escaped from unhealthy marriages in certain circumstances. It seems that through its own legislation and its impact on civil law, the church enforced women’s position in marriage. At issue is whether this favorable treatment corresponded to social changes that improved the position of women in the Middle Byzantine era.

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Nicole Hudgins

Abstract

The avalanche of ruin photography in the archives, albums, publications, and propaganda of World War I France challenges us to understand what functions such images fulfilled beyond their use as visual documentation. Did wartime images of ruin continue the European tradition of ruiniste art that went back hundreds of years? Or did their violence represent a break from the past? This article explores how ruin photography of the period fits into a larger aesthetic heritage in France, and how the depiction of ruins (religious, industrial, residential, etc.) on the French side of the Western Front provided means of expressing the shock and grief resulting from the unprecedented human losses of the war. Using official and commercial photographs of the period, the article resituates ruin photography as an aesthetic response to war, a symbol of human suffering, and a repository of rage.