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Gender and Justice

, 280 pages
February 2010


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Gender and Justice

Violence, Intimacy, and Community in Fin-de-Siècle Paris

Historian Eliza Earle Ferguson’s meticulously researched study of domestic violence among the working class in France uncovers the intimate details of daily life and the complex workings of court proceedings in fin-de-siècle Paris.

With detective-like methods, Ferguson pores through hundreds of court records to understand why so many perpetrators of violent crime were fully acquitted. She finds that court verdicts depended on community standards for violence between couples. Her search uncovers voluminous testimony from witnesses, defendants, and victims documenting the conflicts and connections among men and women who struggled to balance love, desire, and economic need in their relationships.

Ferguson's detailed analysis of these cases enables her to reconstruct the social, cultural, and legal conditions in which they took place. Her ethnographic approach offers unprecedented insight into the daily lives of nineteenth-century Parisians, revealing how they chose their partners, what they fought about, and what drove them to violence. In their battles over money and sex, couples were in effect testing, stretching, and enforcing gender roles.

Gender and Justice will interest social and legal historians for its explanation of how the working class of fin-de-siècle Paris went about their lives and navigated the judicial system. Gender studies scholars will find Ferguson’s analysis of the construction of gender particularly trenchant.

Eliza Earle Ferguson is an assistant professor of history at the University of New Mexico.

"Careful and beautifully written study."

"Eliza Ferguson's meticulous reading of 264 dossiers of the Assize Courts in the Archives of Paris has yielded a fascinating and engagingly written pointillist picture of the intimate lives of the Parisian popular classes. Gender and Justice reveals significant details of love, sex, betrayal, failed expectations, dishonor, violence and retributive justice that comprised working people's daily lives. Ferguson places her keen insights into their intimate lives within the broader context of gender relations, the family economy, and the community culture of late nineteenth-century Paris."

" Gender and Justice is original not just in its analysis of crimes of passion, but in the way it uses the assize court records to glean and synthesize extensive information about daily life."

"Drawing on more than 250 cases of Parisian domestic violence, Eliza Ferguson takes a revealing new look at the fin-de-siècle crime passionelle. By carefully analyzing the testimonies of witnesses in these cases, Ferguson provides us with a fascinating, vivid window on working-class community and gender relations."

"[An] innovative study. This book is indispensable to scholars working in legal and social history, gender studies, and the history of modern France."

"An eloquent account of the everyday lives of the Parisian popular classes, the vibrancy of their neighborhoods, and how violence permeated their domestic arrangements... Ferguson's book is ambitious, thoughtful, and smart."

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