Women of lost honour
Honour and dishonour
in Tolerance, Regulation and Rescue
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This chapter explores the perceptions, in late medieval and early modern Italy, of unchaste women thought to have lost their honour by having sex outside legal marriage. It considers the language used to describe them, both by themselves and by their neighbours and superiors, from all-embracing pejoratives such as meretrice and puttana to subtler terms, including ‘free woman’.Some were professionals, others amateurs and part-timers. As a profession prostitution was multi-layered and status-conscious, ranging from ‘common prostitutes’ to more stylish and selective ‘courtesans’. The discussion considers several forms of urban and rural prostitution, examines the status of mistresses or concubines, and describes the difficulties of estimating the numbers of prostitutes in any given society.

Tolerance, Regulation and Rescue

Dishonoured women and abandoned children in Italy, 1300–1800


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