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Domestic DangersWomen, Words, and Sex in Early Modern London$
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Laura Gowing

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198207634

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198207634.001.0001

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Words, Honour, and Reputation

Words, Honour, and Reputation

(p.111) 4 Words, Honour, and Reputation
Domestic Dangers

Laura Gowing

Oxford University Press

In seventeenth-century London, the church courts were filled by women and men complaining of sexual insult. Brief insults and longer stories about illicit sex were the basis for long and fairly expensive cases based on the principle that slander damaged a person's reputation. What was so damaging about sexual insult? Why did so many women and men turn to the courts? And how was the gendered morality so integral to insult followed up in the concepts of name, fame, and credit that litigants invoked at court? The meaning of slander — on the streets and in the courts — depended on an intersection of words, law, morals, and honour. The precise connections between insults and dishonour, between slander and morals, and between litigation and reputation, were complicated and variable; and they were shaped at every level by gender.

Keywords:   London, church courts, words, honour, reputation, sexual insult, illicit sex, slander, gendered morality, litigation

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