The essay contributes to the broader historiographical debate about identifying European perceptions of childhood innocence. Venetians applied the notion of sexual innocence to both children and adolescents well before the eighteenth century. Through an analysis of criminal investigations from the repositories of the Executors of the Bestemmia and the Council of Forty during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, the essay illustrates the ways in which Venetian authorities, parish priests, and members of the city’s neighborhood communities attempted to shelter youth from exposure to adult sexual behavior. Within the spheres of public and clandestine prostitution, the intimacy of the domestic hearth, and the neighborhood streets, judicial authorities, relying on the testimonies of eye witnesses, removed youth in danger from their homes and places of work, punishing prostitutes, exploitative parents, and sexual predators. While formal laws defined minority and majority age and cognizance of right and wrong in gendered terms, ordinary Venetians were more casual about age than legal theorists and expressed a strong aversion toward the sexual perils surrounding youth of both sexes from their childhood years to well into their teens.


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pp. 761-783
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