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Medievalists usually distinguish medieval public law from [#permalink]
06 Apr 2009, 19:28
Medievalists usually distinguish medieval public law from private law: the former was concerned with government and military affairs and the latter with the family, social status, and land transactions. Examination on medieval women’s lives shows this distinction to be overly simplistic. Although medieval women were legally excluded from roles that categorized as public, such as solider, justice, jury member, or professional administrative official, women’s control of land—usually considered a private or domestic phenomenon—had important political implications in the feudal system of thirteenth-century England. Since land equaled wealth and wealth equaled power, certain women exercised influence by controlling land. Unlike unmarried women who were legally subject to their guardians or married women who had no legal identity separate from their husbands, women who were widows had autonomy with respect to acquiring or disposing of certain property, suing in court, incurring liability for their own debts, and making wills.
Although feudal lands were normally transferred through primogeniture (the eldest son inheriting all), when no sons survived, the surviving daughters inherited equal shares under what was known as partible inheritance. In addition to controlling any such land inherited from her parents and any bridal dowry—property a woman brought to the marriage from her own family—a widow was entitled to use of one-third of her late husband’s lands. Called “dower” in England, this grant had greater legal importance under common law than did the bridal dowry; no marriage was legal unless the groom endowed the bride with this property at the wedding ceremony. In 1215 Magna Carta guaranteed a widow’s right to claim her dower without paying a fine; this document also strengthened widow’s ability to control land by prohibiting forced remarriage. After 1272 women could also benefit from jointure: the groom could agree to hold part or all of his lands jointly with the bride, so that if one spouse died, the other received these lands.
Since many widows had inheritances as well as dowers, widows were frequently the financial heads of the family; even though legal theory assumed the maintenance of the principle of primogeniture, the amount of land the widow controlled could exceed that of her son or of other male heirs. Anyone who held feudal land exercised authority over the people attached to the land—knights, rental tenants, and peasants—and had to hire estate administrators, oversee accounts, receive rents, protect tenants from outside encroachment, punish tenants for not paying rents, appoint priests to local parishes, and act as guardians of tenants’ children and executors of their wills. Many married women fulfilled these duties as deputies for husbands away at court or at war, but widows could act on their own behalf. Widow’s legal independence is suggested by their frequent appearance in thirteenth-century English legal records. Moreover, the scope of their sway is indicated by the fact that some controlled not merely single estates, but multiple counties.
6. Which one of the following best expresses the main idea of the passage? (A) The traditional view of medieval women as legally excluded from many public offices fails to consider thirteenth-century women in England who were exempted from such restrictions. (B) The economic independence of women in thirteenth-century England was primarily determined not by their marital status, but by their status as heirs to their parents’ estates. (C) The laws and customs of the feudal system in thirteenth-century England enabled some women to exercise a certain amount of power despite their legal exclusion from most public roles. (D) During the thirteenth century in England, widows gained greater autonomy and legal rights to their property than they had had in previous centuries. (E) Widows in thirteenth-century England were able to acquire and dispose of lands through a number of different legal processes.
7. With which one of the following statements about the views held by the medievalists mentioned in line 1 would the author of the passage most probably agree? (A) The medieval role of landowners was less affected by thirteenth-century changes in law than these medievalists customarily have recognized. (B) The realm of law labeled public by these medievalists ultimately had greater political implications than that labeled private. (C) The amount of wealth controlled by medieval women was greater than these medievalists have recorded. (D) The distinction made by these medievalists between private law and public law fails to consider some of the actual legal cases of the period. (E) The distinction made by these medievalists between private and public law fails to address the political importance of control over land in the medieval era.
8. Which one of the following most accurately expresses the meaning of the world “sway” as it is used in line 60 of the passage? (A) vacillation (B) dominion (C) predisposition (D) inclination (E) mediation
9. Which one of the following most accurately describes the function of the second paragraph of the passage? (A) providing examples of specific historical events as support for the conclusion drawn in the third paragraph (B) narrating a sequence of events whose outcomes discussed in the third paragraph (C) explaining how circumstances described in the first paragraph could have occurred (D) describing the effects of an event mentioned in the first paragraph (E) evaluating the arguments of a group mentioned in the first paragraph
10. According to information in the passage, a widow in early thirteenth-century England could control more land than did her eldest son if (A) the widow had been granted the customary amount of dower land and the eldest son inherited the rest of the land (B) the widow had three daughters in addition to her eldest son (C) the principle of primogeniture had been applied in transferring the lands owned by the widow’s late husband (D) none of the lands held by the widow’s late husband had been placed in jointure (E) the combined amount of land the widow had acquired from her own family and from dower was greater than the amount inherited by her son
11. Which one of the following is mentioned in the passage as a reason why a married woman might have fulfilled certain duties associated with holding feudal land in thirteenth-century England? (A) the legal statutes set forth by Magna Carta (B) the rights a woman held over her inheritance during her marriage (C) the customary division of duties between husbands and wives (D) the absence of the woman’s husband (E) the terms specified by the woman’s jointure agreement
12. The phrase “in England” (line 30-31) does which one of the following? (A) It suggests that women in other countries also received grants of their husbands’ lands. (B) It identifies a particular code of law affecting women who were surviving daughters. (C) It demonstrates that dower had greater legal importance in one European county than in others. (D) It emphasizes that women in one European country had more means of controlling property than did women in other European countries. (E) It traces a legal term back to the time at which it entered the language.
13. The primary purpose of the passage is to (A) explain a legal controversy of the past in light of modern theory (B) evaluate the economic and legal status of a particular historical group (C) resolve a scholarly debate about legal history (D) trace the historical origins of a modern economic situation (E) provide new evidence about a historical event
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