By Martin Ingram
Adultery, fornication, breach of marriage agreement, sexual slander - those, besides non secular offences of assorted types, have been commonplace of the circumstances handled via the ecclesiastical courts in Elizabethan and early Stuart England. What was once it wish to stay in a society within which own morality used to be regulated by means of legislation during this style? How far-reaching used to be such surveillance in genuine perform? How did usual humans view the courts - as helpful associations upholding approved criteria, or as an alien procedure purveying undesirable values? How powerful have been the church courts in influencing attitudes and behavior? earlier exams of ecclesiastical justice, colored by way of modern puritan and customary legislation criticisms, have normally been detrimental. This in-depth, richly documented examine of the intercourse and marriage enterprise handled below church legislation, in keeping with the documents of the courts in Wiltshire, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire and West Sussex within the interval 1570-1640, provides a extra balanced and extra optimistic view.
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Additional info for Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570-1640 (Past and Present Publications)
21 Elsewhere the exact nature of the relationship between the archidiaconal and episcopal courts varied considerably. Some archdeaconry courts, like Berkshire, were relatively independent, dealing with more or less the full range of church court business and subject to only limited supervision by or competition from the bishop's courts. 23 Other archdeaconry courts remained jurisdictionally separate from but firmly subordinate to the episcopal tribunals, with restrictions on the kinds of business they could handle.
13 Local communities thus tended to use the institutions of legal regulation selectively. This did not necessarily imply conflict with the courts, since judges and lawyers were often well aware of the pressures acting on local officers and did not, in any case, seriously expect total compliance with the letter of the law. All things being equal, a balance could be achieved whereby the demands of the authorities were met on important issues while the precise pattern of prosecutions was allowed to reflect what local communities were themselves most concerned about.
8 5 - 1 0 5 . The records of the church courts in these areas are listed and described in A. M. Woodcock, Handlist of records of Leicester archdeaconry (Leicester, 1954); Dorothy M. Owen, Ely records: a handlist of the records of the bishop and archdeacon of Ely (Cambridge, 1971); Francis W. Steer and Isabel M. Kirby, Diocese of Chichester: a catalogue of the records of the bishop, archdeacons and former exempt jurisdictions (Chichester, 1966), pp. 1-99. 24 Introduction ments in Wiltshire naturally reveals some differences, but the similarities are far more striking.