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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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The Economy of Courtship

The Economy of Courtship

(p.139) 5 The Economy of Courtship
Domestic Dangers

Laura Gowing

Oxford University Press

The moral culture of sexual honour centred on the marital relationship. Before the solemnization of marriage, couples came to the court in battles over the establishment of a conjugal relationship, pleading or denying proofs of contracts to marry; after it, they came to obtain separation, on the grounds that the marital relationship had been destroyed. Testimonies in both cases describe at length the economic, affectional, and sexual relations that constituted conjugality, and the different parts men and women were expected to play both before and during marriage. Before marriage, litigation came to the court on the grounds of broken contracts of marriage. In London as elsewhere, cases of disputed marriage contracts were becoming rare in the late sixteenth century. They came to the church courts, as part of the spiritual jurisdiction's authority over the conjugal state, only when other formal and informal attempts at conciliation failed. The words of betrothal that formed the centrepiece of so many contract suits took place in a particular context: courtship in the presence of family, friends, and neighbours.

Keywords:   London, marriage, courtship, betrothal, marriage contracts, litigation, conjugal relationship, honour, sexual relations

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