Fall 2019

Law, Sex, and Family in the Wider Mediterranean (1300–1800)

Listed in: History, as HIST-223  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-223


Jutta G. Sperling (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 223 [C/P/TC/TE] and SWAG 223) This course invites students to assume a comparative perspective when analyzing different patriarchal societies of the Mediterranean. We will discuss women’s access to properties, marriage, divorce, child rearing, and sexuality. Our case studies are located in Renaissance Italy, early modern France, Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire, and Mamluk Egypt, with brief forays into Spain, Iran, and Jewish communities in France and Italy. Rather than determining whether women had more or less agency, freedom, property rights, etc. in either “western” Europe or the Islamic “east,” we will stress the need to integrate the respective bodies of historical scholarship, separate the issue of religious denomination from family history, and foreground the question of commensurability. We will examine marital gift exchange and divorce in Renaissance Italy and Mamluk Cairo; female resistance to arranged marriages; women’s access to power in the Ottoman harem, the Byzantine imperial palace, and European courts; the fate of female refugees and converts; male and female same-sex desire in Renaissance Italy, the Ottoman Empire, and Safavid Iran; widowed mothers and their access to custody in Islamic, Jewish, and Christian communities; child abandonment in early modern Italy and Portugal.

Fall semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Sperling.


Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Writing, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2021