Hurl 2001 Assault

Title Information

Author: Jennine Hurl

Title: Voices of Litigation; Voices of Resistance

Subtitle: Constructions of Gender in the Records of Assault in London, 1680-1720

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, York University

Year: July 2001

Pages: 366pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 17th Century, 18th Century | English History

Full Text

Link: Library and Archives Canada [Free Access]

Additional Information

Author: Jennine Hurl-Eamon, History Department, Trent University


»The records of assault in London, 1680-1720, are explored in two ways: first, as evidence of the agency of prosecutors, and second, as descriptions of violent misbehaviour. In the former, the voices of litigation can be heard, telling of men and women empowered as victims, by prosecuting the assault and stressing the severity of the offence. In the latter, the voices of resistance are audible, because the records of prosecution offered details of the vanous forms the violence took. In both cases, contemporary constmctions of gender emerged. Sometimes, the differences between eighteenth-century rnasculinity and femininity were prominent, but they were just as ofien blurred in the assault records, revealing both the limitations and fieedoms brought by gender.
Using the recognizances binding individuals charged with assault to appear at the Westminster Quarter Sessions as its main primary source, this dissertation focuses upon middling men and women's use of the Iower courts. Unlike histories that stress the power of the courts in early eighteenth-century England, this dissertation emphasizes the power of the prosecutor, and the relatively high level of cooperation between justices of the peace and litigants. The cast of characters includes pregnant women, battered wives, servants, the Societies for the Reformation of Mamers, and a group of élite male rakes, known as the Mohocks. These chapters underscore the way that the voices of litigation brought empowerment-most significantly, in this patriarchd society, to female prosecutors.
A quantitative analysis of the Westminster recognizances, examining the forms and environments of assault, shows that women could be physically aggressive, in contrast to histories that depict women as exclusively verbal and only men as physical. The assaults on officiais (constables, watchmen, JPs, bailiffs, and marshal's men) were much more masculine. Women only seem to have participated in this special form of resistance in a minor, though interesting capacity: as rescuers of men. The many forms of Londoners' physical resistance are examined in these chapters.
As perpetrators and prosecutors of assault, both men and women acted in a variety of ways, alternately finding limitation and empowerment, ofien-though not alwaysdepending on their gender.« [Source: Library and Archives Canada]


  Abstract (p. iv)
  Acknowledgements (p. vi)
  List of Tables and Figures (p. ix)
  Textual Notes (p. xi)
  Chapter One: Introduction: Contexts and Sources (p. 1)
    Contexts (p. 5)
      Historiography (p. 5)
      London, 1680-1720 (p. 12)
    Sources (p. 24)
      Recognizances for Assault at Westminster Quarter Sessions (p. 24)
      Old Bailey Sessions Proceedings and Defamation Depositions at the Bishop of London's Consistory Court (p. 47)
    Conclusion (p. 54)
  Chapter Two: A Litigating Society: The Courts at Street-Level and the Assertion of Victimhood (p. 55)
    Law in the Streets (p. 58)
      The Record of Prosecution (p. 58)
      Mechanics of the Court (p. 66)
    Assertions of Victimhood (p. 77)
      Justifying Victimhood (p. 77)
      Competition for Victimhood (p.85)
    Conclusion (p. 98)
  Chapter Three: Limiting the Power of the Patriarch: Mothers, Wives and Servants as Assault Victims (p. 100)
    Expectant Mothers As Assault Victims (p. 101)
      Victims' Impact upon the Record (p. 105)
      Enter the Patriarch: the Paternalism of the Court (p.110)
      Motherhood and the Law (p. 113)
      Motherhood and Science (p. 120)
    Wives as Assault Victims (p. 127)
      'Extreme' vs. 'Ordinary': Characterizations of Domestic Violence (p. 131)
      Extended Family and Servants (p. 142)
      Neighbourhood Involvement (p. 149)
      Wives' Success at Quarter Sessions (p. 153)
    Conclusion (p. 158)
  Chapter Four: Policing Masculinity: Sex Crimes and Moral Panics (p. 162)
    Sex Crimes (p. 165)
      Acquitted but not Exonerated: The Rape Trial (p. 165)
      Policing Male Sexuality: Beyong the Rape Trial (p. 176)
    Moral Panics (p. 189)
      The Mohocks (p. 189)
    The Societies for the Reformation of Manners' Campaign against Bawdy Houses (p. 205)
    Conclusion (p. 215)
  Chapter Five: Gendering Interpersonal Violence: Languages and Environments of Assault (p. 218)
    Languages of Assault (p. 221)
      Assault to Physically Harm (p. 221)
      Assault to Humiliate (p. 241)
    Environments of Assault (p. 257)
      Spaces of Assault (p. 257)
      Situation and Circumstances Behind Assault (p. 273)
    Conclusion (p. 286)
  Chapter Six: Attacking the Law: Resistance to Arrest and Judgement (p. 290)
    Resisting Arrest (p. 297)
      Assaults on Constables (p. 297)
      Rescues and Escapes of Prisoners (p. 309)
    Resisting Judgement (p. 318)
      Insults to Justices of the Peace (p. 318)
      Attacks on Bailiffs and Marshalls's Men (p. 327)
  Conclusion (p. 339)
  Bibliography (p. 347)
    Primary Sources (p. 347)
      Manuscripts (p. 347)
      Printed Primary Sources (p. 347)
    Secondary Sources (p. 353)

Added: November 9, 2013 | Last updated: November 9, 2013