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Rape on the Body Politic, Stasis in the Body Social :
Prosecuting Sexual Crime In The English Revolution
My first manuscript offers a revision to the social historiography of the English Civil Wars and Interregnum. Due to the increase in gendered and sexualized rhetoric in political propaganda and the changes to the social and political institutions that governed morality and sexuality, some historians have suggested that there were similar disruptions in gendered norms and patterns of the incidence and prosecution of sexual crime. By examining the common-law prosecution of sexual crime at a local level, this book argues for social stability, rather than disruption during this period. Using digital humanities tools and common law records from Essex, Sussex, Somerset, Wiltshire, and Norfolk, this project conducts quantitative and qualitative analyses of three types of offenses: illegal sex, bastardy, and violations of marriage. The incidence of, prosecution of, and approach to bastardy and illegal sex remained unchanged throughout this period of political unrest. Marriage, however, did experience minor fluctuations due to confusion over changes to the marriage register. However, these changes indicate administrative confusion rather than changes in social norms. A stable social order in spite of political chaos indicates an enduring respect for local judicial authority. This gap between political rhetoric and the reality of sexual crime in this period encourages historians to create compelling social-historical narratives that attend to a broader array of sources in a new enriched social history.
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