Arc Seminar | Sara Mcdougall: Bastards and Their Families in Medieval Europe

This paper investigates the mothers of illegitimate children in medieval Europe and their encounters with the law. Men and their illegitimate children have received some scholarly attention, but we know very little about the mothers. Fathers and their legal rights and obligations concerning their illegitimate children are likewise the subject of far more detailed discussion in medieval canon law and secular law codes. Mothers of illegitimate children, meanwhile, particularly married women, and the legal relationships of these mothers to illegitimate children, have received far less attention, both in the contemporary legal and non-legal sources, and also in modern scholarship. My presentation would address the shadowy history of the mothers of bastards in law and in practice, considering both unmarried women who lived as concubines or mistresses to higher status men and also high status women who had children out of wedlock. The presentation will consider the legal relationship of these women to children born to men they had not married and the inheritance rights of these children. The implications may well challenge many of our preconceptions about the circumstances of women in premodern Europe, particularly their relationship to Christian canon law as well as secular legal traditions in Western Europe.











When: Thu., February 23, 2017 at 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Where: Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Ave.
212-817-7000
Price: Free
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This paper investigates the mothers of illegitimate children in medieval Europe and their encounters with the law. Men and their illegitimate children have received some scholarly attention, but we know very little about the mothers. Fathers and their legal rights and obligations concerning their illegitimate children are likewise the subject of far more detailed discussion in medieval canon law and secular law codes. Mothers of illegitimate children, meanwhile, particularly married women, and the legal relationships of these mothers to illegitimate children, have received far less attention, both in the contemporary legal and non-legal sources, and also in modern scholarship. My presentation would address the shadowy history of the mothers of bastards in law and in practice, considering both unmarried women who lived as concubines or mistresses to higher status men and also high status women who had children out of wedlock. The presentation will consider the legal relationship of these women to children born to men they had not married and the inheritance rights of these children. The implications may well challenge many of our preconceptions about the circumstances of women in premodern Europe, particularly their relationship to Christian canon law as well as secular legal traditions in Western Europe.

Buy tickets/get more info now