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Title: Review of Alain Boureau, 'The Lords First Night: The Myth of the Droit de Cuissage', trans. Lydia G. Cochrane. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Pp.300. ISBN (cloth) 0 226 06742 4; (paper) 0 226 06743 2. R.R.P. US $55.00 (cloth), US$ 19.00 (paper).
Contributor(s): Ryan, John S (author)
Publication Date: 2000
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Abstract: This provocative and witty book explores a famous legend of feudal barbarism, the infamous 'droit du seigneur' or 'ius primae noctis', a practice supposed to have been practised in many parts of France in the Middle Ages. The present study, the resultant of further research after the matter was raised in the debate over and reform of the French Penal Code in 1992, was provoked by the widespread assumption that this was an early form of the most severe female sexual harassment. The present study, a remarkably scholarly essay in many ways, shows that the matter belongs to the field of folklore at an obvious level, as a belief legend of some antiquity, perhaps, even, one of the earliest 'contemporary legends'. The method of exploration of the case is the startling one of linking the vexed question of the feudal lord's right to sleep the first night with his tenant's/tenants' new bride(s), with burning issues of contemporary gender debates. The treatment thus evolved moves into the theatre, around the regions of France, and through the many specific legal matters that seem to be entangled with the surviving print references to this custom.
Publication Type: Review
Source of Publication: Australian Folklore, v.15, p. 259-260
Publisher: Australian Folklore Association
Place of Publication: Armidale, Australia
ISSN: 0819-0852
Field of Research (FOR): 189999 Law and Legal Studies not elsewhere classified
160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology
160101 Anthropology of Development
HERDC Category Description: D3 Review of Single Work
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