Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Crime and gender in Bologna, 1600-1796

The central aim is examining gender differences in recorded crime, particularly in relation to interpersonal violence, in early modern Bologna.

2013 - 2017

Both in contemporary and in historical mindsets crime was a male ordeal. Yet the archives of the early modern criminal tribunals are in fact full of both men and women transgressing established rules in ways that vary from stealing to homicide. Early modern Italian cities are considered to be notoriously violent. And while violence is thought to have been at the heart of everyday life in the early modern period, it has for a long time been studied above all as a male ordeal linked to a distinctly masculine honour culture. 

However, there is substantial evidence that like crime in general violent behaviour was in no way reserved to men alone, and that contrary to normative restrictions women too resorted to violence to settle disputes. Various studies on Northern-European cities show that both men and women employed an array of different types of violence to settle disputes with both genders, in ways that seem more alike than previously has been thought, and for a variety of mostly mundane motivations of daily life that go beyond gender-specific honour. This project aims to extend this study to early modern Bologna (Italy) to reveal the gendered day-to-day practices of crime and justice in a region plagued by cultural connotations and stereotypes that do not necessarily represent everyday lived experiences.

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