The fourth Douglas Murray Prize was jointly awarded to Dr. Iris Fleßenkämper and Professor Stanislaw Koziara. Here, Dr. Fleßenkämper shares her story.
I first learned of the Douglas Murray Prize when I was informed by Reformation and Renaissance Review editor Ian Hazlett that I had won it. I was delighted to have my article accepted into the journal, let alone win a prize for it, so this came as quite a shock.
My article was based on a paper I held at the conference “Gender and Sexuality in the Reformation”, organized by the Society for Reformation Studies in Cambridge (UK) in 2014. It concentrates on the legal strategies used by women who sued for a separation from their husbands on the grounds of domestic violence. Although men’s violent behavior was commonly accepted to protect both their social reputation and their control over the household, it was still highly ambiguous where the boundary between legitimate and illegitimate violence lay. In the article, I provide examples from 17th-century court documents to show that women applied Protestant moral codes within a judicial context to defend their interests.
Fortunately, the original files on the marriage court in Lippe are almost completely preserved at the Archive North Rhine-Westphalia (Detmold). All files are manuscripts that I had to transcribe first before arranging them into different categories, including objectives of legal action and plaintiff gender. While time consuming, this activity allowed me to reconstruct common argumentative patterns of suing women in the seventeenth century. It ultimately underlined the significance of Protestant theology in enabling divorces, and also in supporting judicial separations. An important finding in a fascinating area of study, highlighting the conflicting norms and practices of marriage in an early modern German county.
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