The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Family, Gender, and Law in Early Modern France

Family, Gender, and Law in Early Modern France

Edited by Suzanne Desan and Jeffrey Merrick
  • Copyright: 2009
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 304 pages
  • Illustrations: 1 map
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03469-0
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-03472-0
Family, Gender, and Law in Early Modern France is a very well-conceptualized and extremely coherent volume, offering an excellent introduction to recent trends and new directions in the field of family history in early modern France.”
“This is an important and timely collection that opens new lines of inquiry into the history of the family in early modern Europe.”
“An excellent primer for those new to the field of family history in early modern France. . . . For those teaching a French culture and civilization course, Family, Gender, and Law in Early Modern France is a worthy resource. It helps to set the stage for understanding what occurred in France before and after the Old Regime, and fosters a greater appreciation for what predecessors desired in a civil society.”
“This is a superb collection of essays which sheds important new light on the ever-growing field of the history of the family.”
“This is one of those rare edited volumes greater than the sum of its parts. Each chapter is a fine work of historical synthesis, document analysis or close archival research. Yet, together, the essays paint a rich picture of marriage and family life in early modern France, uncovering startling new facets beneath old assumptions.”

The essays in Family, Gender, and Law in Early Modern France explore how ordinary men and women negotiated power within early modern French households and continually reinvented their families in response to external forces. Larger processes, such as state building, religious reform, changing understandings of gender roles, and economic developments, influenced family practices in the areas of marriage, separation, guardianship, and illegitimacy. Relatives, gender, community, and the law imposed limits upon families but also provided opportunities for agency. Contributors investigate patterns of courtship and decisions about marriage; the financial power exercised by wives; marital conflict and related controversies about gender, sexuality, and social order; death and guardianship; and the legitimization of children born out of wedlock. While addressing a variety of topics, this volume focuses on family members as individuals with complicated agendas and strategies of their own.

Suzanne Desan is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Jeffrey Merrick is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.




1. Making and Breaking Marriage: An Overview of Old Regime Marriage as a Social Practice

Suzanne Desan

2. Marriage Choice and Marital Success: Reasoning About Marriage, Love, and Happiness

Dena Goodman

3. Family Affairs: Wives, Credit, Consumption, and the Law in Old Regime France

Clare Crowston

4. Between State and Street: Witnesses and the Family Politics of Litigation in Early Modern France

Julie Hardwick

5. Marital Conflict in Political Context: Langeac vs. Chambonas, 1775

Jeffrey Merrick

6. Gender, Kin, and Guardianship in Early Modern Burgundy

Christopher Corley

7. On the Contested Margins of the Family: Bastardy and Legitimation by Royal Rescript in Eighteenth-Century France

Matthew Gerber

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Status, Power, and Identity in Early Modern France

The Rohan Family, 1550–1715