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Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England$
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Alexandra Shepard

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299348

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299348.001.0001

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Respectability, Sex, and Status

Respectability, Sex, and Status

(p.152) 6 Respectability, Sex, and Status
Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England


Oxford University Press

This chapter revisits debates about the gendered components of reputation in early modern England in order to question the extent to which male and female honour was incommensurable in line with the sexual double standard. The defamation litigation heard by the Cambridge University courts provides a good case study, since their jurisdiction was far broader than that of the church courts, which have been the previous focus of historians' debates on this issue. While the insults alleged in defamation suits suggest that reputation was more multifaceted for men than for women, there was nonetheless a considerable degree of overlap in their respective concerns, with the substance of suits depending on age and status as well as gender. It is also clear that male litigants were less concerned with proving their honesty in either sexual or economic terms than with disputing their social standing through various points of comparison with other men.

Keywords:   honour, reputation, sexual double-standard, defamation, honesty, social status

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