Living with the burden of illegitimacy in the society Mediaeval England in the Late Twelfth – Early Fourteenth Century
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This thesis examines how those who were considered bastards by the society of England in the period ca. 1200 – 1350 were affected by their birth status, by seeking answers to questions about the place illegitimates had within the family and local community, the way they were perceived by the locals and the society at large, the career paths and means of improving their prospects in life that were available to them. This study explores the legal, social and financial limitations and possibilities that were tied to the changing understanding of the concept of illegitimacy, as well as the cultural image of real and imaginary bastards. Contrary to the trends popular among the researchers of the subject, the thesis does not focus primarily on the legal aspects and nuances of illegitimacy, nor does it examine in detail the high-born and popular figures of bastards; instead, the analysis concerns itself first and foremost with the family and social relations of mediaeval bastards by applying the anthropological and sociological approach to the interpretation of both legal and narrative sources. The primary source materials include legal sources, like Curia Regis Rolls, year books, manorial records; ecclesiastical records, such as papal and bishops’ registers; as well as narrative sources – chronicles and popular romances. The thesis is divided into five chapters that explore different aspects of the concept of illegitimacy – how it was understood and put into practice by the English society, taking into consideration the differences between individual social strata – landed society, peasantry, and clergy –, and in what areas and to what extent the status of a bastard affected the lives of those considered illegitimate and their closest relatives. The final chapter explores literary portrayals of bastardy and the cultural perception of and the attitudes towards illegitimates among the English society of the Central Middle Ages.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2027-12-08
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