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Power over the Body, Equality in the Family
Rights and Domestic Relations in Medieval Canon Law
POD; Published: 10/29/2004
ISBN: 978-0-8028-2211-6
Price: $ 41.99
347 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Series: Emory University Studies in Law and Religion (EUSLR)

The term "conjugal rights" has long characterized ways of speaking about marriage both in the canonistic tradition and in the secular legal systems of the West. This book explores the origins and dimensions of this concept and the range of meanings that have attached to it from the twelfth century to the present.

Employing far-ranging sources, Charles Reid Jr. examines the language of marriage in classical Roman law, the Germanic legal codes of early medieval Europe, and the writings of canon lawyers and theologians from the medieval and early modern periods. The heart of the book, however, consists of the writings of the canonists of the High Middle Ages, especially the works of Hostiensis, Bernard of Parma, Innocent IV, and Raymond de Peñafort. Reid's incisive survey provides a new understanding of subjects such as the right of parties to marry free of parental coercion, the nature of "paternal power," the place of bodies in the marriage contract, the meaning and implications of gender equality, and the right of inheritance.
Expository Times
"A welcome addition to the existing literature, and provides some reassurance that ? contrary to what might be believed about marriage in the medieval period ? there were certain rights within its ordered structure."
R. H. Helmholz
"A real contribution to scholarship on the history of human rights. Charles Reid provides a careful and informative examination of the concept of fundamental rights within the context of the family as they were worked out in the medieval canon law. This book should interest scholars of the canon law as well as readers interested in the development of basic rights in Western law."
James A. Brundage
"Charles Reid's engrossing book convincingly argues that many traditional Christian doctrines about marriage sprang from concepts about rights and corresponding obligations that began to take shape in twelfth-century scholastic jurisprudence. Reid's historical analysis links medieval and theological doctrines concerning marriage to concepts about rights and responsibilities that bound marital partners not only to each other but also to their families of origin and to their own children. Power over the Body, Equality in the Family builds on Brian Tierney's investigations of the origins of medieval ideas about natural rights. Those ideas in turn provided the philosophical rationale on which subsequent Western marriage and family law has largely been based. Medieval jurists sought to balance the rights of parents to control the marriages of their children against the rights of children to choose their own marriage partner. Their natural rights theories further dictated that although husband and wife were spiritual equals who enjoyed equal rights to intimate relations within marriage, male authority ought to prevail in other aspects of family life."
Brian Tierney
"Charles Reid's book makes an important contribution to our understanding of medieval marriages and medieval marriage law, especially by providing valuable new insights into the specific rights that were granted to each member of a family."