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Carnal Knowledge

Carnal Knowledge
Regulating Sex in England, 1470–1600

$34.99 (P)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History

  • Date Published: March 2017
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316631737

$ 34.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • How was the law used to control sex in Tudor England? What were the differences between secular and religious practice? This major study reveals that - contrary to what historians have often supposed - in pre-Reformation England both ecclesiastical and secular (especially urban) courts were already highly active in regulating sex. They not only enforced clerical celibacy and sought to combat prostitution but also restrained the pre- and extramarital sexual activities of laypeople more generally. Initially destabilising, the religious and institutional changes of 1530–60 eventually led to important new developments that tightened the regime further. There were striking innovations in the use of shaming punishments in provincial towns and experiments in the practice of public penance in the church courts, while Bridewell transformed the situation in London. Allowing the clergy to marry was a milestone of a different sort. Together these changes contributed to a marked shift in the moral climate by 1600.

    • The first comprehensive account of sexual regulation by legal means in England in the century before 1570, with a concluding chapter that takes the story beyond 1600
    • Sheds light on underlying patterns of sexual transgression, including adultery, pre-marital sex, maintaining mistresses, the practice of prostitution, and clerical immorality
    • Combines evidence from ecclesiastical and secular sources in London and its suburbs, major provincial towns as well as rural areas, to appeal to a wide range of scholars and students interested in urban, social, cultural, religious and legal history
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Masterly and definitive. Ingram’s study, meticulously researched and powerfully argued, transforms our understanding of the evolution of sexual regulation before, during and after the Reformation.' Bernard Capp, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Warwick

    'Carnal Knowledge is a hugely important work of careful and stimulating scholarship that must be required reading for all late medieval and early modern scholars interested in sex, social and gender relations, and how they changed historically.' Garthine Walker, Cardiff University

    'In this deeply researched and highly illuminating book Martin Ingram makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the regulation of sexuality by both ecclesiastical and secular authorities in sixteenth-century England.' Adam Fox, University of Edinburgh

    'This eagerly anticipated book has many virtues … But by far the most important is the commitment to the long perspective … The result is a compelling and persuasive account of sex and its control that should be of interest to anyone interested in the social and cultural history of the period.' Phil Withington, University of Sheffield

    ‘Carnal Knowledge is the culmination of … two decades of endeavour, and is a publication of massive significance. It is a rich and multi-faceted book.’ James Sharpe, The Times Literary Supplement

    'Focuses on the legal regulation of sexual behavior in England from the late 15th to the late 16th century. [Ingram] argues that the period spanning the Reformation brought changes to the regulation of sexual transgressions and provided a basis for the later Puritan reformation of manners.' J. Werner, CHOICE

    'Carnal Knowledge is a magisterial work based on deep immersion in archival sources of many kinds, harnessed in clear and cogent analysis. It will be required reading for scholars working in gender, sexuality, law, and politics in the premodern world.' Shannon McSheffrey, Journal of Social History

    '… a work of impressive range and depth, which can be read with profit by all students and scholars of late medieval and early modern English society. … to have raised so many large topics for further inquiry is itself testimony to the remarkable ambition of this project, the scrupulous precision of its author and the fruitfulness of the work that he has now triumphantly completed.' Faramerz Dabhoiwala, The English Historical Review

    '… this book [is] a major achievement. It substantially expands our understanding of late medieval and early modern sexual regulation and it challenges the most common assumptions about how this changed over the course of the sixteenth century. … an excellent example of an exhaustively researched and clearly articulated historical argument about an important subject. Anyone interested in how people's sexual behavior was monitored, judged, and punished in the past will want to read this book.' Brodie Waddell, H-Net

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316631737
    • dimensions: 227 x 150 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.68kg
    • contains: 2 maps 13 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Contexts and perspectives
    2. Marriage, fame and shame
    3. 'Bawdy courts' in rural society before 1530
    4. Urban aspirations: pre-Reformation provincial towns
    5. Stews-side? Westminster, Southwark and the London suburbs
    6. London church courts before the Reformation
    7. Civic moralism in Yorkist and early Tudor London
    8. Sex and the celibate clergy
    9. Reform and Reformation, 1530–58
    10. Towards the new Jerusalem? Reformation of sexual manners in provincial society, 1558–80
    11. Brought into Bridewell: sex police in early Elizabethan London
    12. Regulating sex in late Elizabethan times: retrospect and prospect.

  • Author

    Martin Ingram, University of Oxford
    Martin Ingram is an Emeritus Fellow in History at Brasenose College, University of Oxford. His publications include Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570–1640 (Cambridge, 1988) as well as numerous articles on sex and marriage, crime and the law, slander and defamation, scolding women, 'rough music' and related topics.

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