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postmedieval

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 344–356 | Cite as

Disability and consent in medieval law

  • Eliza BuhrerEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

This essay highlights the ways that legal fictions about the extent to which disability limits agency have historically been used to prevent women from exercising many of the rights of legal adulthood, particularly those related to marriage and property. In the late thirteenth century, English law began to limit the activities of people with cognitive and sensory disabilities, on the grounds that they lacked the understanding necessary to consent. These laws ostensibly existed to protect people who could not protect themselves. However, using the records of late medieval lawsuits, I show that as women inherited land at unprecedented rates during the fourteenth century, men fraudulently alleged that women were disabled in order to gain control of their property.

Notes

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Humanities, Arts and Social SciencesColorado School of MinesGoldenUSA

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