Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570-1640

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Cambridge University Press, Mar 29, 1990 - History - 412 pages
Adultery, fornication, breach of marriage contract, sexual slander - these, along with religious offences of various kinds, were typical of the cases dealt with by the ecclesiastical courts in Elizabethan and early Stuart England. What was it like to live in a society in which personal morality was regulated by law in this fashion? How far-reaching was such surveillance in actual practice? How did ordinary people view the courts - as useful institutions upholding accepted standards, or as an alien system purveying unwanted values? How effective were the church courts in influencing attitudes and behaviour? Previous assessments of ecclesiastical justice, coloured by contemporary puritan and common law criticisms, have mostly been unfavourable. This in-depth, richly documented study of the sex and marriage business dealt with under church law, based on the records of the courts in Wiltshire, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire and West Sussex in the period 1570-1640, presents a more balanced and more positive view.
 

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User Review  - Tafadhali - LibraryThing

A clear, readable account of the role of the church courts in early modern England. I read selectively, but probably touched on 2/3 of the book; it provided useful historical context for my dissertation. Read full review

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1990 / 412 pages / Inner Annexe T

Contents

Introduction
1
The structure of ecclesiastical justice
53
Economic and social structures
71
Religion and the people
85
laws ideals and popular practice
125
THE PATTERN
169
Sexual slander
292
The effectiveness of ecclesiastical justice
323
retrospect
364
Bibliography
375
Index
393
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