Quasi-Marital Unions in Medieval Europe


ACLS Fellowship Program




Many people in medieval Europe, who could not legally marry or chose not to, lived together in long-term domestic partnerships, which this project views as “quasi-marital.” Such unions, lacking legal recognition, were fraught with danger for women in particular, but they also provided a degree of flexibility and demonstrate the adaptability of social customs in the face of unchanging, or very slowly changing, religious doctrine. This cultural history of social and legal phenomena requires examination of a wide range of texts and documents across the entire medieval millenium in order to get at structures and relations that medieval authors and record-keepers did not wish to address directly. A key source is a database compiled from church court registers from late medieval Paris.