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Taking it to Court: Litigating Women in the City of Valencia, 1550-1600
AuthorGonzales, Cynthia Ann
Karant-Nunn, Susan C
Committee ChairNader, Helen
Karant-Nunn, Susan C
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation explores the history of women and litigation in the Spanish-Mediterranean city of Valencia between 1550 and 1600 through the examination of 114 civil suits filed in the appellate court of the Real Audiencia (Royal Supreme Court of the kingdom of Valencia). During this time, one-third of all legal cases reviewed by the Royal Supreme Court involved a female litigant as either the primary supplicant or defendant, and in some cases, women were both. Widows, wives, and daughters of Valencian artisans and merchants, farmers, and the elite initiated litigation over various socio-economic issues including disputed inheritances, dowries, yearly incomes, and urban and agricultural property. As good Valencian citizens, female litigants utilized the judicial system, particularly civil law courts, in order to negotiate their financial welfare during a time of economic prosperity in the city. In so doing, they demonstrated an understanding of local legal customs as well as their socio-economic rights, which they confidently defended. Historians have characterized early modern Spain as a litigious society, but there are few studies of Spanish litigation that focus primarily on the legal pursuits of women in civil court. Instead, scholarship has addressed Spanish women's involvement in criminal trials, an emphasis which tends to portray women as marginal to Spanish society. Civil litigation, however, presents women as individuals actively making daily decisions that impacted others from throughout their community. Moreover, the subject of women and litigation in Valencia reveals the degree to which local courts and the urban community, including men, supported women's legal and economic interests during the sixteenth century. Such local support further illustrates that women were central as opposed to marginal in early modern Spanish society.