The Crimes of Women in Early Modern Germany

The Crimes of Women in Early Modern Germany

The Crimes of Women in Early Modern Germany

The Crimes of Women in Early Modern Germany

Synopsis

This fascinating study is the first to investigate the crimes of women living in Germany during the time of the Reformation and the Thirty Years War. Ulinka Rublack draws on court records to examine the lives of shrewd cutpurses, quarreling artisan wives, and soldiers' concubines, and explores women's experiences of communities and courtship, marriage, the family, and the law.

Excerpt

Matthäus Merian's topographies have left a lasting impression of seventeenth-century German towns. We still look at his engravings with pleasure. One of his views, of Memmingen, shows the size, boundaries, gates, markets, streets, and important buildings of this upper Swabian Imperial city (Fig. 1, opposite). in this case there is next to no record of natural forms; what vegetation there is is cultivated for display rather than use. the brook that curves through Memmingen is narrow and disciplined; it serves the paper-makers, dyers, tanners, and other crafts. the city is empty, however. We see neither humans nor animals; no pigs, goats, cows, or hens. Outside the fortified walls, nobody moves on the paths; the environs are empty. Nothing indicates how the land is used. We see no peasants, out-burghers, tradesmen, or wanderers. Instead our gaze is directed to the houses and religious and communal buildings in the town itself. Mainly represented in side-view, they seem spacious, and some are larger than others. Even so, if Merian's engraving were our only source, it would be difficult to guess where rich and poor lived in Memmingen. Questions about rich and poor are not raised. This is one reason why Merian's Städteansichten are nowadays framed to decorate bourgeois livingrooms. They affirm an image of pre-modern times which displays order and a limited and humanly mastered world.

How might we put some life into this town? a small story will help. One July morning in 1608 all those empty Memmingen streets were filled as the innkeepers assembled in the town hall. a new ale ordinance was to be read out to them, and they would have to swear to obey it. Among the assembled people was Anna, the wife of the innkeeper Michel Müller. When she left the town hall with three of the men she was in a fine temper. 'All your hands should be cut off', she fumed: 'you stood in there as if frozen. It's the same as in court, no one is allowed to say a word!' One of the innkeepers asked what was annoying her so much: the lords' demands had to be obeyed, after all. Anna, he said, was 'always cleverer than everyone else. My lords will soon have to fill the . . .

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