The Measure of Woman: Law and Female Identity in Medieval Spain


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project examines the relationship between women and law in high medieval Spain, exploring how law categorized women (e.g. daughter, wife, widow, whore), and showing how medieval women helped to shape the legal discourse that in many ways defined the boundaries of their lives. By the end of the Middle Ages, the ius commune—the combination of Roman and canon law taught in the medieval universities—formed the basis for most law codes in continental Europe, and its taxonomy of women was accepted as natural for centuries. But an examination of women's participation in medieval court proceedings as plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses reveals the artificiality of these legal categories, and encourages a more nuanced understanding of women's experience than written law codes suggest.