Families in the courtroom: Law, community and gender in northwesternMexico, 1800-1850
AuthorShelton, Laura M.
AdvisorMartinez, Oscar J.
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 family life in northwestern Mexico between 1800 and 1850 through the examination of around 700 state civil and criminal court records from the Sonoran state archives. It demonstrates that in spite of characterizations of ineptitude and underdevelopment, the local judiciary of Sonora, Mexico, was an important arbiter of social hierarchies based on ethnicity, class, gender and age, where people from across the social spectrum created, reconstituted and challenged these inequalities. Moreover, court proceedings reflect the persisting centrality of colonial law and legal process, as well as the growing influence of liberal ideology on judicial outcomes. Marriage, consensual unions, inheritance, sexuality, intergenerational relationships and hierarchies, children and servants are the central themes of this study. An examination of census data, parish records and court testimonies demonstrates the diversity of family patterns in Sonora during the first half of the nineteenth century, including large numbers of small farmers, a significant minority of female-headed households, as well as men and women living in consensual unions. These sources suggest that while Sonorans idealized marital fidelity and deference on the part of women and younger kin, and mutual reciprocity among family members, social practice was far more irregular than any regional patriarch could possibly hope. They also demonstrate that men and women looked increasingly to "the state," in the form of the local courts, to resolve their familial disputes after independence.
Degree ProgramGraduate College