Synopses & Reviews
In late medieval Marseille, large segments of society showed up in court - fishmongers, sailors, widows, maids, petty lenders, Jews, and Christians - where they argued, cursed, charged, and counter-charged. In the process, they pushed aside Roman and municipal laws to construct their own vernacular code of morality. Witnesses, Neighbors, and Community in Late Medieval Marseille asks how, in a time of crisis, medieval citizens developed an independent sense of ethics based on the needs of their families, neighbors, and clients. Witness testimony from Marseille's court records forms the documentary heart of this book, offering a window onto the dynamics of the city's neighborhoods. Using the role of witness, humble people, often women, became the arbiters of their communities.
"Some of the most vivid evidence we have for the lives of ordinary men and women in later medieval Europe come from the records of the depositions they made in court cases. In this fascinating study, McDonough illuminates the social relations and gender dynamics of later medieval Marseille through a careful exploration of a number of gripping tales told in court, tales of poverty, madness, plunder, spousal abuse, and more. Plaintiffs in these cases sought to construct artful narratives based on prevailing assumptions about morality and gender roles. But as McDonough shows so vividly, witnesses too were actors in these courtroom dramas. Piecing together the moral world of a late medieval community, McDonough argues cogently that witnesses, as a collectivity, claimed competence in vital domains of knowledge-production and evaluation." - Daniel Lord Smail, Professor of History, Harvard University, USA
"To confront witness testimony in late medieval court cases is itself a rare and welcome endeavor. But McDonough does so both with attention to the procedures of eliciting and recording such testimony and even more so with a keen eye to the social context of the witnesses and their own presumptions and motivations. Thus she is able, for example, to uncover from these records a sense of the 'economy of care' for the sick and elderly within families and neighborhoods. Her book will be of interest to all who are interested in social history of the late Middle Ages." - Thomas Kuehn, Professor of History, Clemson University, USA
"[An] engaging and beautifully written book." -Medieval Feminist Forum
About the Author
Susan McDonough is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA.
Table of Contents
1: The Political, Legal, and Moral Landscape
2: The Record, the Restrictions, and the Roles of Witnesses
3: All in the Family: Wealth and Poverty, Grief and Inheritance
4: The Law, The Neighbors, And the Mad: Conflicts over Managing Disorder
5: In the Wake of Violence: Witnesses Rebuilding their Communities