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Unfit For Marriage

Impotent Spouses On Trial In The Basque Region Of Spain, 1650-1750

Edward Behrend-Martinez

Publication Year: 2007

Published by: University of Nevada Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-xii

This book is about men—and women—accused by their spouses of being impotent in an era and place when such an indictment could dissolve unconsummated marriages. In itself, each impotence trial seems to be a trivial example of recognizable sexual and marital problems. There are the tales of a pathetic nobleman who could not "get it up," a wife wanting to escape a...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This study owes its existence to two individuals: Renato Barahona and Angel Ortega López. Renato Barahona first noted a number of cases for marital separation and impotence trials on a visit to the Diocesan and Cathedral Archives of Calahorra more than a decade ago. Renato's intellectual generosity and practical knowledge of northern Spain have been the bedrock of this...

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pp. 1-10

In early modern northern Spain the church made marriages; and despite its own claim that matrimony was permanent, the church allowed divorces too. When church courts issued annulments, they bent and fitted Catholic laws in such a way as to appease the stubborn interests of beleaguered wives and husbands wanting to end their time in the purgatory of marriage. The...

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1: Gerónima Martínez de Texada v. Diego Belasco, Logroño, 1681

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pp. 11-27

Anyone attempting to explain the rudiments of an impotence trial to an interested audience will be met with a flood of questions. How did judges test a litigant for impotence? How long did a husband have to be impotent for an annulment to be possible? How could a woman litigate independently in such a male-biased society? How could a woman be judged impotent? How...

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2: The Reforms of Bishop Pedro de Lepe Dorantes (1686–1700)

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pp. 28-64

As the earliest synods took up questions of matrimony, canon law on marriage became increasingly elaborated, with glosses and enumerations of edicts on laws. Occasionally, movements of legal reform prompted church canonists to make canon law clearer and more concise. The church's decisions regarding questions on the sacrament of matrimony became absolute after...

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3: Impotent Women, Discarded Wives

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pp. 65-84

As with men, but more so, societies have defined women by their bodies and their sexuality (e.g., virgin, wife, prostitute). So the fact that women were prosecuted for sexual impotence may not be all that surprising, even though impotence has most often been described as a male curse. Indeed, descriptions of impotence in early modern Spanish dictionaries refer exclusively to...

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4: The Prosecution and Sexual Persecution of Impotent Men

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pp. 85-111

Traditionally, Catholic Church courts have been blamed for the persecution, exposure, and humiliation of impotent men. Few events in early modern courts seem as alien to modern sensibilities as impotence trials. These legal procedures can strike the modern reader as violations of individual integrity and sexual privacy. Historian Pierre Darmon, for instance, does not hide his...

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5: Rhetorics of Divorce, Reputation, and the Male Body

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pp. 112-141

It should surprise no one that annulments were used as divorces in the early modern period, but the question has actually been often asked and hotly debated. Many authors have asserted that, by the marital impediment of consanguinity for instance, annulments since the Middle Ages in Europe were easily procured and served as de facto divorces. The case for this argument is...

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pp. 143-147

When scholars explain the development of modern loans at interest, they rarely neglect its roots in Catholic Europe even though the Catholic Church disavowed interest and punished usury as a sin. In Spain, good Catholics earned interest on loans by, among other ruses, utilizing the censo al quitar.2 The censo al quitar allowed a borrower to temporarily sell land to a creditor...


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pp. 149-163


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pp. 165-188


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pp. 189-199


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pp. 201-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780874177138
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874176995

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 1 MAP
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 123346924
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Unfit For Marriage

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Marriage -- Annulment -- Spain -- History.
  • Divorce -- Law and legislation -- Spain -- History.
  • Marriage -- Annulment (Canon law) -- History -- Sources.
  • Ecclesiastical courts -- Spain.
  • Impediments to marriage -- Spain.
  • Impediments to marriage (Canon law).
  • Impotence (Canon law).
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