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Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe

This monumental study of medieval law and sexual conduct explores the origin and develpment of the Christian church’s sex law and the systems of belief upon which that law rested. Focusing on the Church’s own legal system of canon law, James A. Brundage offers a comprehensive history of legal doctrines–covering the millennium from A.D. 500 to 1500–concerning a wide variety of sexual behavior, including marital sex, adultery, homosexuality, concubinage, prostitution, masturbation, and incest. His survey makes strikingly clear how the system of sexual control in a world we have half-forgotten has shaped the world in which we live today. The regulation of marriage and divorce as we know it today, together with the outlawing of bigamy and polygamy and the imposition of criminal sanctions on such activities as sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, and bestiality, are all based in large measure upon ideas and beliefs about sexual morality that became law in Christian Europe in the Middle Ages.

"Brundage’s book is consistently learned, enormously useful, and frequently entertaining. It is the best we have on the relationships between theological norms, legal principles, and sexual practice."—Peter Iver Kaufman, Church History

698 pages | 20 halftones | 5.80 x 9.00 | © 1987

Gender and Sexuality

History: European History

Law and Legal Studies: Legal History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

1.  Law and Sex in the Ancient World
     The Ancient Near East
     Sexual Behavior in Ancient Greece
     Sexual Behavior in Ancient Rome

2.  Sex and the Law in Judaism and Early Christianity
     Marriage and the Family in Ancient judaism
     Law and Sex in Ancient Christianity

3.  Sex and the Law in the Christian Empire, From Constantine to Justinian
     Christianization of the Roman Empire and Romanization of the Christian Church
     Christian Theories of Sexuality
     Marriage in the Christian Empire
     Sexual Offenses
     Sexuality and the Law under Justinian

4.  Law and Sex in Early Medieval Europe, Sixth to Eleventh Centuries
     The Germanic Invasions and Germanic Law
     Law and Sexual Behavior in the Germanic Kingdoms
     Sexual Behavior and the Christian Church in the Germanic Kingdoms
     Sexual Activities of the Clergy
     Sexual Behavior and Moral Prescriptions in the Penitentials
     Sexual Behavior and Early Medieval Canonical Collections
     Conclusions: The Church and the Regulation of Sexual Behavior in the Early Middle Ages

5.  The Era of Church Reform, Intellectual Revival, and Urbanization, 1076-1140
     The Social and Intellectual Context of Church Reform
     The Roman Law Revival
     The Church reform Movement, Canon Law, and Sexual Behavior
     Sex and Marriage in the Canonists, 1087-1140
     Divorce and Remarriage in the Canonical Collections of the Reform
     Nonmarital Sex and the Reform Canonists
     Marriage, Sex, and the Clergy in the Church Reform Period
     The Enforcement of the Church’s Sexual Regulations: Jurisdiction and Procedure

6.  Sex and Marriage in the Decretum of Gratian
     Gratian and the Systematic Study of Canon Law
     Marital Sex in Gratian
     Divorce and Remarriage in the Decretum of Gratian
     Gratian on Concubinage
     Nonmarital Sex in Gratian
     Sex and the Clergy in Gratian’s Decretum
Procedure and Evidence in Sex Cases

7.  Sexual Behavior and the Early Decretists, from Paucapalea to Huguccio, 1140-1190
     The Decretists and the Teaching of Law
     The Early Decretists Theory of Sex and Marriage
     The Decretists and Marital Sex
     Divorce and Remarriage in the Decretists
     Concubinage in Decretist Doctrine
     Nonmarital Sex and the Decretists
     The Early Decretists and Clerical Sexuality
     Jurisdiction, Procedures, and Evidence in Sex Cases

8.  Marriage and Sex in Canon Law, from Alexander III to the Liber Extra
     Decretals, Decretalists, and the Decretal Collection
     Marriage Theory in Early Decretal Collections
     Concubinage and Nonmarital Sex
     Clerical Marriage and Concubinage
     Second Marriages
     Legitimacy and Marital Property
     Jurisdiction, Evidence, and Procedures
     Sex Law and Marriage in the Decretals
     Legal Scholarship in the Late Twentieth and Early Thirteenth Centuries
     Clerical Celibacy and Clerical Sexuality
     Multiple Marriages
     Legitimacy and Property Issues
     Jurisdiction, Procedures, Evidence

9. Sex, Marriage, and the Legal Commentators, 1234-1348
     Sources and Literature of the Law from the Liber Extra to the Black death
     Social and Political Context
     Sex, Society, and Social Thought
     Property Consequences of Sexual Relationships
     Evidence, Procedure, and Jurisdiction, in Sex and Marriage Cases
     Summary and Conclusions

10. Sex, Marriage, and the Law from the Black Death to the Reformation, 1348-1517
     The Social Context
     Sex and Society in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
     Marriage Theory and Practice
     Sexual Offenses in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
     Sex and the Clergy
     Multiple Marriages
     Property Consequences of a Sexual Relationships
     Legitimation of Children
     Jurisdiction, Procedures, and Evidence in Sex Cases

11. Sex in the Age of Reformation: From the Ninety-Five Theses to Tametsi, 1517-1563
     The Reformers and Sexual Issues
     Catholic Reform and Counter-Reform

12. Medieval Sex Law and Modern Society: Recapitulation, Reflections, and Conclusions
     Reflections: Medieval Christianity and Modern Sexual Norms

Appendix 1: Tables
Appendix 2: Marriage Law and the Economic Interests of the Medieval Church
Appendix 3: Survivals of Medieval Sex Law in the United States and the Western World

List of Manuscripts Cited
Select Secondary References

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