3. Punishment versus Reconciliation: Marriage Control in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Holland
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chapter 3 Punishment versus Reconciliation: Marriage Control in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Holland Manon van der Heijden Introduction ecently, Martin Ingram argued that, in order to understand various forms of early modern social discipline, historians should compare a range of secular and ecclesiastical jurisdictions over a long period of time.1 Focusing on Holland during the early modern period, this article attempts to accomplish exactly what Ingram advocated. Before elaborating on the issues he raised, it might be wise to start with defining the term “social control” and explaining the questions asked and the sources used. This article follows the broad definition of Herman Roodenburg and Pieter Spierenburg in which “social control” is described as all those practices by which people define deviant behavior and respond to it by taking action.2 According to their description, “social control” covers formal social control exercised by the state, semiformal control exercised by various institutions such as churches, guilds, and charities, and informal control practiced by family members, neighbors, and friends. In Holland a broad range of options either to impose social control or to be submitted to social control were in existence. This article deals with two of the most formal modes of social control in early modern Holland: church discipline and secular criminal justice. From 1572 (after the revolt against Spain) onward, both ecclesiasticalandsecularauthoritiesmeddledindomesticmatters .Bailiffsbroughtadulterers, bigamists, and fornicators to court, where judges decided upon the suspect’s sentence . For their part, clergymen and elders kept an eye on the members of their church. During their visits to people’s homes, they obtained all kinds of information about these members. Whenever they heard of disorderly conduct in their district , clergymen informed the consistory, so that it could take appropriate action. The main focus of this article is on the ways in which secular and ecclesiastical authorities controlled marriage and behavior related to marriage. I will argue 55 R Spierenburg_Vol_1_Ch_3_3rd.qxd 6/22/2004 2:38 PM Page 55 that, despite the fundamental differences that existed between ecclesiastical discipline and criminal justice, comparisons between court cases and church cases yield useful information on early modern social control. First, I will take a brief look at the influence of Reformed thought on marriage regulation and the division of tasks between the secular and ecclesiastical authorities. Second, I am focusing on the enforcement of secular legislation and ecclesiastical regulation in daily practice. Which forms of behavior were actually corrected by the government and the Reformed church, how did both institutions handle their cases, and to what extent did the control they exercised differ? Finally, I will pay attention to the legitimacy of the intervention of church and government. To what extent did people summoned before the consistory or punished by the court accept the interference of these institutions? In which cases did people themselves take the initiative to call upon these institutions to act? In order to satisfactorily cover both secular and ecclesiastical marriage control , two different sources in the archives of two Dutch cities, Rotterdam and Delft, were examined. First, I investigated three different types of court records: sentence, correction, and confession books. Second, I examined the consistory notes of the Reformed Church. Both sources reveal interesting insights into marriage regulation during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.3 The sentence books consist of all sentences for serious offenses, while the correction books contain less serious cases. Although the confession books were meant only for the examination of suspect persons, in most cases sentences were also recorded. Where no sentence can be found in the examination books, they were recorded in the sentence books. Furthermore, the confession books contain examinations of all persons who played a role in the case.The examinations of spouses, children, neighbors, and other persons involved were recorded extensively. The consistory notes contain the records of all Reformed consistory meetings, including disciplinary cases. In particular, the consistory handled matrimonial issues. Regularly, spouses or fiancées asked the consistory to mediate in matrimonial affairs. Besides that, clergymen often questioned relatives, neighbors, and other persons involved, in order to boost their discipline. Therefore, the consistory notes include complaints of fiancées, statements of relatives, and points of view of neighbors. Marriage Regulation and Reformed Thought Since the twelfth century, theologians emphasized the spiritual and sacramental character of marriage, and marital issues obtained a good deal of attention from the Catholic Church.4 However, the Reformers proclaimed marriage to be a political and public matter. In 1566 the Governor-General of the Netherlands, Margaret...


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