Unwed Mothers in Medieval England
AbstractDiscussions of the legal rights and disabilities of illegitimate children abound in the historical records of medieval Europe. Reference to their mothers, on the other hand,is scarce, making it difficult to recover their experiences, and the attitudes of their communities towards them. Consequently, the mothers of illegitimate children havebeen largely overlooked by medievalists. This article attempts to recover the experiences of, and attitudes towards, the mothers of illegitimate children in Medieval England. Drawing upon evidence from the records of English civil and ecclesiastical courts, diocesan and archidiaconal visitations, and diocesan synods, it argues thatthere was considerable flexibility regarding the definition of, and attitudes towards,the mothers of illegitimate children in medieval England.
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