Defamation, Gender and Hierarchy in Late Medieval Yorkshire
By Bronach C. Kane
Social History, Vol.43:3 (2018)
Abstract: This article focuses on a late-fourteenth-century defamation suit from the ecclesiastical court of York to demonstrate the granular nature of gender identity and homosocial cooperation and competition across status groups. In this case, a dispute between two gentry families developed into an accusation of sexual dishonour against the father of an unmarried pregnant woman. The analysis of networks of homosocial interaction reveals the gendered composition of reputation and identity at the social level.
Male anxiety solidified around honesty in sexual and personal dealings, while concerns about social and religious status arose as the scandal became widely publicized. The study qualifies works on masculinity and insult in late-medieval society, demonstrating the significance of sexual honour and speech in men’s disputes over reputation. It also illustrates the extent to which patriarchal authority could be enforced through control over the sexual activity of dependent men.
Despite the involvement of gentry and lower aristocratic parties, the perspectives of women and non-elite men are visible and reveal the limits of patriarchal control in gentry households. Thus, the article delineates the nature of disputes between elite and lower-status men, tracing the boundaries of reputations, as well as their protection and maintenance in periods of conflict.
Fantastic to see 'Popular Memory and Gender in Medieval England' NOW PUBLISHED! #happyfriday Massive thanks to @boydellbrewer & @CanaryCaroline friends & colleagues for fab support getting it over the line: https://t.co/eBPrPbjZra
— Bronach Kane? (@bronachkane) May 24, 2019
Top Image: British Library MS Additional 42130 f. 81v