Everyday crime, criminal justice and gender in early modern Bologna
Leiden : Leiden University
Leiden University, 16 mei 2019
Promotores : Heijden, M.P.C. van der, Schmidt, A.
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Economische, Sociale en Demografische Geschiedenis
When thinking about criminality, it is generally not a female protagonist that first comes to mind – especially not in early modern Italy, where women’s scope of action is commonly portrayed as heavily restricted. This dissertation examines the influence of gender on recorded crime in the city of Bologna, and reveals two distinct features: the prominence of violence among recorded crime, and a consistently low share of formally investigated female offenders. Rather than seeking to explain this crime pattern through the stereotypical notion of women’s restricted agency alone, this dissertation distinguishes three other important mechanisms for cities like Bologna: the tendency to institutionalise rather than criminalise ‘problematic women’, judicial paternalism, and, importantly, the pervasive culture of peace-making. While all of these mechanisms withdrew women from formal criminal prosecutions, a close-reading of hundreds of complaints alongside the formal investigations allows us to uncover women’s far more prominent roles in crime. Not only were women’s shares among offenders much higher than the formal investigations alone would suggest, the fact that female victims of crime actively and strategically employed the criminal court to their own ends speaks to the notion that women’s scope of action was far more significant than was commonly assumed
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