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The Law of Jealousy: Sex, Violence and Justice in Southern Italy, 1650-1800

In the eighteenth century jealousy emerged as a grave social problem in the eyes of southern Italian law-makers. It was regarded as the most common cause of homicide in the Kingdom of Naples and, by consequence, a major cause of social disorder. But how did local experiences of jealousy match with such histories of legal and social thought and what did it mean for crimes to be explained by jealousy in a community or at court? When a murder had occurred and was attributed it to sexual jealousy, how were the feelings of the offender or those of the kin of the victim described?
This project confronts such questions and explores how the legal codes and institutions of the Kingdom shaped such dramatic and more mundane experiences of courtship, marriage and sexual competition.
It uses two main approaches to investigate the legal and emotional histories of 'jealousy' in Italy through the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The first uses trial records to examine how those involved in crimes of jealousy experienced, used and were affected by the legal system. The second traces how legal thought concerning the emotions involved in such crimes was formed from a range of intellectual traditions. By focusing upon emotions this project traverses histories of kinship, law, local power and state-building.

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