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Grant number like: FEL-262314-19

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Michelle Armstrong-Partida
Emory University (Atlanta, GA 30322-1018)

Research Programs

[Grant products]

$60,000 (approved)
$60,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2019 – 7/31/2020

Concubinage and Illegitimacy in the Late Medieval Mediterranean

Research for a book-length study on the widespread practice of concubinage (living together without being married) in 14th- and 15th-century southern Europe.

This project is a study of informal sexual unions, clandestine marriage, and illegitimate children. It explores the spectrum of marriage that existed in the late medieval Mediterranean among the peasantry and the patrician class in the cities of Barcelona, Girona, Marseille, Perpignan, Pisa, and Lucca. I use these port cities as focal points that underscore a similar sexual practice with the eastern Mediterranean. I establish the prevalence of concubinage as a Mediterranean cultural custom and make the case that more women ended up in an informal union, by choice or by circumstances, than marriage and that historians must reconsider the primacy we give to marriage in the lives of late medieval people. I examine why an informal union offered men and women social and economic advantages, including how it affected the masculinity of men and highlight the empowerment of lower-level women to make decisions to marry or abandon a spouse.