Kümper 2013 Body

Title Information

Author: Hiram Kümper

Title: The Injured Body in Context

Subtitle: Outlines for a Legal History of Rape in Pre-Modern Europe (c. 1250–1750) in Cultural Perspective

In: Gender Difference in European Legal Cultures: Historical Perspectives. Essays presented to Heide Wunder

Edited by: Karin Gottschalk

Place: Stuttgart

Publisher: Franz Steiner Verlag

Year: 2013

Pages: 57-70

ISBN-13: 9783515094092 – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: Late Middle Ages, Early Modern History | European History | Prosecution: Laws

Full Text


Additional Information

Author: Hiram Kümper, Historisches Institut, Universität Mannheim (University of Mannheim)


»HIRAM KÜMPER sketches legal attitudes and judgements on rape from the Middle Ages to the mid-18th century, and thereby touches on a central aspect of Pre-Modern legal culture: the orderly handling of conflicts and illegal acts of violence. The Pre-Modern state had no monopoly on the use of force, instead various holders and forms of power were active (and vied with each other), partly in dependence, partly independently of each other (for example territorial lordship, manorialism, headship of household etc.). The exercise of violence was a legitimate element of these power relationships, as well as of social relationships generally, although excessive use of it was illegal. It was under these conditions that the offence of rape had to be defined as such, the legally responsible instance determined, the relationship between punishment and reconciliation or settlement fixed, and a solution for the conflict found that was acceptable for all sides, or at least enforceable. Here the normative specifications of gender hierarchy came into conflict with other conceptions of order.
For this reason Kümper suggests historicising the crime of rape and investigating it in its legal-cultural and social context. He asks how the crime was perceived in each case, which discourses played a role in this, and what the relationship was between rape and culturally accepted forms of violence in sexual contacts. The terminology used in legal texts indicates that the crime of sexual violence was much less clearly differentiated from other crimes than it is today. The Latin terms raptus (theft) and abducere (kidnapping) left the matter open as to whether violence was actually involved, that is whether it was against the will of the woman concerned or, rather, against the will of the father, for example. But from the 16th century onwards rape took on an increasingly more concrete form in law: emphasis was placed on the exercise of violence as a central characteristic of the crime. It was no longer compared to theft but placed in the same context as other sexual crimes; in other words, rape was quasi sexualised. This concretisation included concepts of accepted violence against women, as well as concepts of legitimate sexuality in contrast to sexuality that was worthy of punishment. Such concepts determined how rape was perceived and punished. Furthermore, according to Kümper, the changing construction of rape included concepts of sex, being human, social status and honour.« (Source: Karin Gottschalk. »Gender Difference in the History of Law.« Gender Difference in European Legal Cultures: Historical Perspectives. Essays presented to Heide Wunder. Edited by Karin Gottschalk. Stuttgart 2013: 16)

Reviews: Kraus, Eva. Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 101(1) (2014): 86-87. – Full Text: recensio.net (Free Access)

Added: June 14, 2014 – Last updated: January 17, 2015