Moral Regulation and Civic Identity in London 1400-1530
By Stephanie Tarbin
Our Medieval Heritage: Essays in honour of John Tillotson for his 60th birthday
Merton Priory Press, 2002
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Abstract: Allegations of sexual misconduct featured prominently among the business of medieval church courts, which were concerned to correct spiritual offences. But moral regulation was not solely the province of the church, as secular authorities also investigated sexual infractions and prosecuted delinquents. This article investigates the purpose of such activities by London’s civic governors and considers their significance in terms of gender. Ordinances and records of prosecutions show that the city’s rulers viewed their correctional activities as a necessary responsibility of moral Christian government, borrowing extensively from Christian teachings to elaborate a rhetoric of good rule and civic honesty. For London’s leading citizens, the public regulation of sexuality guaranteed the honour of the city and asserted the virtuous government of the city’s rulers. The essay explores how understandings of masculinity and femininity were implicated in the construction of civic identity and argues that male sexual discipline was the desired result of moral regulation.
We thank Professor Tarbin for her permission to republish this article.