Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 6763
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Pedersen , Frederik.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Demography in the Archives: Social and Geographical Factors in Fourteenth- Century York Cause Paper Marriage Litigation
  • Source: Continuity and Change 10, 3 (Dec. 1995): Pages 405 - 436.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Courts of Law, Ecclesiastical Gender Geography Marriage Social Class Social History York, North Yorkshire, England
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 14
  • Primary Evidence: Legal Document; The York cause papers for the fourteenth century have 256 files containing around 800 documents. The cause papers document an individual case and may include depositions and material from officers appointed by the court to investigate the facts of the mat
  • Illustrations: One map. The map shows the location of litigation cases and of known roads.
  • Table: Six graphs. The graphs present data on type of case load, litigants' distance from York, litigants' status group, plaintiffs' gender in types of marriage litigation, ages of male and female witnesses in comparison with model life tables.
  • Abstract: This study argues that medieval court documents do not present a random sample illustrating trends in the surrounding society and that there is no reason to believe that court documents are not representative of the business of the courts. By the help of analyses of the composition of surviving fourteenth- century matrimonial cause papers it is shown that the litigants' ease of access to the archbishop's court in York was of major importance to the decision to litigate and an analysis of internal cause paper evidence regarding the status of litigants shows that a very high proportion of marriage cases originated among high- status litigants. Litigants' status also increased the further from York they lived. The prevalence of women plaintiffs and the impossibility of fitting the age- distribution of male and female witnesses to the same model life tables raise further doubts about the representativeness of court documents as evidence of changing patterns of lay behaviour. The study concludes that court records tell us more about the people who used the courts than about trends in the society in which litigation arose. [Reproduced by permission of Cambridge University Press.]
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Aberdeen
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1995.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 02684160