on 13 November 2013
The thing which struck me most about this book was how similar, issues concerning prostitution were in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to those we have today. The authorities wished to control (not suppress) prostitutes, not because of any moral disapprobation (that came in the sixteenth century) but in order to preserve public order and reduce crimes associated with prostitution - theft, extortion, blackmail, assault and homicide.
It is also striking how women were blamed for inciting the lusts of men; men were rarely blamed for being unable to control their own lust, the fault being placed firmly on the woman. A woman "belonged" to a particular man - father , husband, brother, employer, and was not available for public view. If she transgressed this she risked being labelled a whore. I found myself being reminded of the modern niqab and burqa controversy - women must cover up or the men will be unable to control themselves.
This book is a fascinating revelation of how far we have come since the fourteenth century, but also of how much we still share the prejudices and attitudes of those long dead people.
on 14 April 2015
An excellent read, well-written, full of interesting data that is well-analyzed and will affect the way I realize medieval women in novels... I think some of the themes could use nuance and development. But high marks on readability, this book is relatively jargon free. Highly recommended.
on 3 February 1999
I read the first two chapters word by word, checking every footnote, etc. I then skimread chapters 3-6 (i.e. the rest of the book). The book was originally recommended to me by a relative of the author as being relevant to the topic of mediaeval marriage but in fact it only touches on that topic - the book is only about mediaeval prostitution and seems to be utterly comprehensive on this topic - though it is not one that interests me personally, so it is hard for me to tell whether I got bored by the book because it is dryly written or merely because I am not so interested in the topic itself. It certainly seems to be very meticulous with sources, which is good.
on 20 February 1999
This review was done by Elaine E. Whitaker, Dept. of English, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Karras, Ruth Mazo. Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England. Studies in the History of Sexuality. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Pp. viii + 221.