Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Article of the Month

Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.

May 2015

Cantigas de Santa Maria
A mother passes her child to the father's waiting arms, Cantigas de Santa Maria, 139, 13th century (Madrid, Escorial Museum, MS B.i.2) (Source: New York Public Library, image available for non-commercial reuse)

Laumonier, Lucie. "Meanings of Fatherhood in Late-Medieval Montpellier: Love, Care and the Exercise of Patria potestas." Gender & History 27, 3 (2015): 651-668.

"Fatherhood and masculinity were intersected identities during the Middle Ages, as they continue to be today. Fatherhood has a long history as a dynamic research field in medieval studies, and benefits greatly from being analysed within the framework of gender studies. Such a framework enhances our understanding of the paternal identity by stressing the way in which it was culturally constructed. The history of fathers in medieval southern France has not received that much attention from gender historians. The archives of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Montpellier, a great city in Mediterranean Languedoc, offer a particularly rich opportunity to further explore fatherhood with an eye towards gender. Focusing on legal history, the history of the emotions and economic history, this article seeks to investigate the linkages between masculine and paternal identities. We will see that fatherhood was legally defined in terms of masculine moral traits, including patria potestas (control over the household).

Fatherhood carried a duty of affection and care, as well as a masculine responsibility of provision and transmission to the children. This did not involve merely material wealth, but good reputation – in short setting the child up well for adulthood." [Reproduced from the journal page on the Wiley Online website.]