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Living Dangerously

On the Margins in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Edited by Barbara A. Hanawalt and Anna Grotans

Publication Year: 2007

The essays in Living Dangerously, written by some of the leading scholars in the fields of history and literature, examine the lives of those who lived on the margins of medieval and early modern European society. While some essays explore obvious marginalized classes, such as criminals, gypsies, and prostitutes, others challenge traditional understandings of the margin by showing that female mystics, speculators in the Dutch mercantile empire, and writers of satire, for example, could fall into the margins. These essays reveal the symbiotic relationship that exists between the marginalized and the social establishment: the dominant culture needs its margins. This well-written and lively collection covers a wide geographical area, including England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, and the Netherlands, making it an ideal resource for a broad range of courses in European history and literature.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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Front Matter

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pp. vii-viii

In the course of preparing this volume for publication, we have had the invaluable assistance of James Bennett, Susanne Childs, Valerie Emanoil, Henry Griffy, and Elizabeth Zimmerman of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at The Ohio State University.We thank them for their meticulous work and efficiency in seeing...

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pp. 1-8

Living dangerously, or living on the margins, in medieval and early modern Europe holds considerable fascination.Marginals have been identified as including the poor, people of low status, and lawbreakers. Bronislaw Geremek, in his study of the low life of Paris, lumped all marginals into one class. They were not only people and groups who fell outside the social and economic mainstream, but they also formed an underclass that rendezvoused...

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1. “Nede ne hath no lawe”: The Plea of Necessity in Medieval Literature and Law

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pp. 9-30

The opening scene of the final apocalyptic passus of Piers Plowman (in both the B and C versions) finds Will heavy-cheered, ailing of heart, and, above all, hungry: “for y ne wiste where to ete ne at what...

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2. Upward Mobility in the German High Middle Ages: The Ascent of a Faithful Liar

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pp. 31-54

As Professor Hanawalt indicates in her introduction, those living on the margins of society did not merely include the poor, criminals, and lower classes, but could also include individuals from upper classes, such as those rising through the ranks on merit or noblewomen who exercised sexual independence, as the heroine in our story does...

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3. Women in Love: Carnal and Spiritual Transgressions in Late Medieval France

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pp. 55-86

The interplay between structure and antistructure invariably gives rise to a shadow world simultaneously fostered by, and festering within, this generating matrix. This world is confected from detritus that was shed en route to the establishment of new forms. Thus while individuals are, from a certain perspective, in training to inhabit the new structures...

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4. Gendering the Disenfranchised: Down, Out, and Female in Early Modern Spain

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pp. 87-112

The history of a tolerant Spain where diverse minority cultures lived peaceably and harmoniously with the Christian majority has long been cherished by many scholars, in particular by medievalists who ascribe this feature, known in Spanish as “convivencia,” to their period.1 Indeed, during the Middle Ages, Spain’s three religious groups—Jewish, Islamic, and Christian—maintained relatively stable relations until...

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5. Sodomy and the Lash: Sexualized Satire in the Renaissance

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pp. 113-136

By our standards, all of early modern London was living dangerously. Filth was everywhere: open sewers ran through the city center; drainage was inadequate; water was foul. Corpses of dogs and drowned cats lay rotting in ditches. Horse dung and human excrement were in every street. The air in an early modern city would stifle us with its stench. Poor sanitation, of course, led to disease: plague, leprosy, smallpox, and a host of other ailments.Without exception, early modern cities were deadly places to live...

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6. The Wind Traders: Speculators and Frauds in Northern Europe, 1650-1720

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pp. 137-166

It is curious how often margins and centers intersect, a physical impossibility that is readily apparent in the economic world of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Any study of this period of economic history remains unsatisfactory unless it considers the celestial orb of high finance and the crepuscular realm of fishy deals and shady traders...


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pp. 167-168


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pp. 169-173

Image Plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9780268081645
E-ISBN-10: 0268081646
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268030827
Print-ISBN-10: 0268030820

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 694144461
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Living Dangerously

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Social history -- Medieval, 500-1500.
  • Middle Ages.
  • Civilization, Medieval.
  • Crime -- Europe -- History.
  • Marginality, Social -- Europe -- History.
  • Europe -- History -- 476-1492.
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