Title

Premarital Sexuality Among Young People in Eighteenth-Century France

Document Type

Presentation

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Undergraduate Research Symposium

Publisher

Cornerstone

Location

Mankato, MN

Publication Date

4-21-2014

Abstract

Youth courtship in preindustrial Europe is often misunderstood by historians. The predominant interpretation is that youth developed sexual relationships in a predefined fashion under close parental supervision. The evidence gained through the analysis of early eighteenth-century paternity suits housed in the Archives Départementales de la Côte d’Or in Dijon, France reveal a more complex historical picture. Paternity suits containing the original complaint of the plaintiff, witness depositions, and interrogations of defendants provide detailed information about the timeline and signs indicating the development of sexual relationships, as well as the places in which they occurred. We found that these liaisons often lacked familial oversight. The investigation of the court cases allows historians to better understand and map the sexual and behavioral patterns of preindustrial French youth while also offering a reconsideration of commonplace notions about sexual relationships in traditional societies

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