Common Women

Common Women : Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England

3.92 (82 ratings by Goodreads)
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A "common woman" in medieval England was a prostitute, distinguished as such less for taking money for sex than for belonging to all men in common. Karras's book tells the story of these women, their experiences, relations, and treatment under the law, and concludes that prostitution was central to the medieval understanding of feminity.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 232 pages
  • 164.3 x 243.8 x 21.6mm | 592.2g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • halftones
  • 0195062426
  • 9780195062427

Back cover copy

"Common women" in medieval England were prostitutes, whose distinguishing feature was not that they took money for sex but that they belonged to all men in common. Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England tells the stories of these women's lives: their entrance into the trade because of poor job and marriage prospects or because of seduction or rape; their experiences as street-walkers, brothel workers or the medieval equivalent of call girls; their customers, from poor apprentices to priests to wealthy foreign merchants; and their relations with those among whom they lived. Through a sensitive use of a wide variety of imaginative and didactic texts, Ruth Karras shows that while prostitutes as individuals were marginalized within medieval culture, prostitution as an institution was central to the medieval understanding of what it meant to be a woman. This important work will be of interest to scholars and students of history, women's studies, and the history of sexuality.
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Review quote

this is an admirable academic study, the product of careful research over years. * The Literary Review * a useful and perceptive addition to the ever growing collection of works on medieval sexuality. * Corinne Saunders, Medium Aevum. * Karras s style is approachable and pleasingly uncluttered by theoretical vocabulary; her conclusions are both sensible and sensitive. * Corinne Saunders, Medium Aevum. *
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Rating details

82 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 30% (25)
4 40% (33)
3 23% (19)
2 4% (3)
1 2% (2)
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