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Nefarious Crimes, Contested Justice

Illicit Sex and Infanticide in the Republic of Venice, 1557–1789

Joanne M. Ferraro

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This captivating history exposes a clandestine world of family and community secrets—incest, abortion, and infanticide—in the early modern Venetian republic.

With the keen eye of a detective, Joanne M. Ferraro follows the clues in individual cases from the criminal archives of Venice and reconstructs each one as the courts would have done according to the legal theory of the day. Lawmakers relied heavily on the depositions of family members, neighbors, and others in the community to establish the veracity of the victims’ claims. Ferraro recounts this often colorful testimony, giving voice to…

This captivating history exposes a clandestine world of family and community secrets—incest, abortion, and infanticide—in the early modern Venetian republic.

With the keen eye of a detective, Joanne M. Ferraro follows the clues in individual cases from the criminal archives of Venice and reconstructs each one as the courts would have done according to the legal theory of the day. Lawmakers relied heavily on the depositions of family members, neighbors, and others in the community to establish the veracity of the victims’ claims. Ferraro recounts this often colorful testimony, giving voice to the field workers, spinners, grocers, servants, concubines, midwives, physicians, and apothecaries who gave their evidence to the courts, sometimes shaping the outcomes of the investigations.

Nefarious Crimes, Contested Justice also traces shifting attitudes toward illegitimacy and paternity from the late sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Both the Catholic Church and the Republic of Venice tried to enforce moral discipline and regulate sex and reproduction. Unmarried pregnant women were increasingly stigmatized for engaging in sex. Their claims for damages because of seduction or rape were largely unproven, and the priests and laymen they were involved with were often acquitted of any wrongdoing. The lack of institutional support for single motherhood and the exculpation of fathers frequently led to abortion, infant abandonment, or infant death.

In uncovering these hidden sex crimes, Ferraro exposes the further abuse of women by both the men who perpetrated these illegal acts and the courts that prosecuted them.

Reviews

Reviews

This is a book which repays careful study and illuminates a world which most of its inhabitants would have preferred to have kept hidden.

This is an elegantly written concise and clear book that will be a fascinating read for scholars and students alike.

This is an elegantly written, concise, and clear book that will be a fascinating read for scholars and students alike.

A thoroughly enjoyable and informative study that will be a great benefit to scholars of Venice and the Mediterranean, crime and criminal procedure, the Reformations, and the history of sexuality.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
272
ISBN
9780801889875
Illustration Description
11 halftones, 1 map
Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
1. Sex and Subjection in the Republic of Venice
2. Family Secrets: Father-Daughter Incest
3. Hidden Crimes in a Noble Household
4. Infant Deaths and Community

List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
1. Sex and Subjection in the Republic of Venice
2. Family Secrets: Father-Daughter Incest
3. Hidden Crimes in a Noble Household
4. Infant Deaths and Community Secrets
5. Defying Scandal: Priests and Their Lovers
6. Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Joanne M. Ferraro
Featured Contributor

Joanne M. Ferraro, Ph.D.

Joanne M. Ferraro is a professor of history at San Diego State University and has written widely on the history of family and sexual relations in early modern Italy. She is the author of Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice and Family and Public Life in Brescia, 1580–1650: The Foundations of Power in the Venetian State.
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