Abstract

The early modern era in European history has come to be seen as a period marked by more or less successful attempts by elites to impose "civilized" behavioral norms on ordinary people, especially women. The present examination of suits for child support and breach of promise in the French province of Burgundy, however, suggests that both ordinary people and judges remained sympathetic to unmarried women who found themselves pregnant. The jurisprudence practiced in Burgundy's local courts accepted the testimony of the woman in naming the father, and automatically assigned a lump sum payment for the costs of the delivery, as well as regular payments for the child's upkeep to majority, and sometimes a payment of money for the harm done to her honor (by refusing to marry her). Furthermore, there were ways of ensuring the collection of child support, including judicial seizure and imprisonment. Finally, the article argues that many paternity disputes resulted from considerable uncertainty about whether parental permission was required for marriage---and pitted a pregnant young woman against her lover's parents.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 673-684
Launched on MUSE
2005-03-22
Open Access
No
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