This well-crafted volume of ten essays is an important contribution to the growing body of research on women and law in England the pre-modern period. Each essay examines a different aspect of women’s interactions with the law (broadly defined and encompassing both secular and ecclesiastical courts) and, as suggested in the title, foregrounds their agency.
Martin Ingram’s 1987 book Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570–1640 is celebrated for many reasons.(1) Not least, it is recognised for its importance in rescuing ecclesiastical courts from previous unfavourable assessments that branded them corrupt and inefficient.
Pauline Gregg’s Freeborn John was previously the most recent full biographical work on John Lilburne. Published in 1961, Gregg’s work was extremely close to H. N. Brailsford’s seminal The Levellers and the English Revolution; the two works standing for decades as the cornerstones to Leveller historiography.
Married Life in the Middle Ages offers a refreshing approach to medieval marriage. Elisabeth van Houts focuses on the social and emotional sides of marriage rather than viewing marriage through a legal or institutional lens. Two aspects of van Houts’ book set it apart from others.
Gary De Krey is a leading historian of mid-to-late 17th-century London. His two monographs on the City: London and the Restoration and A Fractured Society capture the complexity, dynamics and interiority of London politics in ways that have often stumped the best of historians.
The case of Mary Toft—the woman who gave birth to rabbits in 1726—has an enduring appeal. I remember the first time I encountered her as a final year undergraduate, both fascinated and appalled by the details of the case.