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För varje brottsling ett straff: Föreställningar om kön i de svenska medeltidslagarna
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2009 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates concepts of gender in Swedish medieval law. The sources studied are the provincial law codes, the laws of the realm, and the two law codes for cities. The main area of study is the penal codes and especially descriptions of criminal acts and punishments. One objective is to explain the development of female legal responsibility in the Middle Ages. It is argued that a royal initiative lies behind the effort to make women into legal subjects. The other important force behind this movement has been connected to the Church’s emphasis on subjective guilt. The development of female legal responsibility is interpreted as a tendency towards seeing the woman as an autonomous individual.

The introduction of female legal responsibility was successive and uneven. This means that the laws also reveal which crimes women were expected to commit. The thesis discusses which crimes were considered typically female and which crimes were considered male. In general, women were expected to act more deceitfully. They were not expected to use violence, though the legislators were not alien to female violence. Men were expected to act openly and with violence. The close link between masculinity and use of violence is indeed apparent.

In the laws of the realm women have been integrated as perpetrators. In fact these laws are far more gender neutral; now both men and women are portrayed as potential criminals. It has however become obvious that female legal responsibility was more often emphasized for serious crimes, those crimes leading to the death penalty. While we see an integration of women as possible perpetrators, the genders are separated by the choice of death penalties. Both male and female punishments were used as a determent, but the bodies of the guilty were treated differently. The male body was used as a visible warning sign to others. The female body was completely destroyed. This reflects differences in concepts between the female and male body.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Historiska institutionen , 2009. , 307 p.
Keyword [en]
gender, Middle Ages, legal history, crime, punishment, violence, death penalty, legal responsibility, honor, individualization, female subordination
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8496ISBN: 978-91-7155-811-4OAI: diva2:200361
Public defence
2009-02-27, hörsal 4, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 13:00
Available from: 2009-02-05 Created: 2009-01-28Bibliographically approved

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