Women’s gossip, insults & violence in 16th century France

Delighted that my article, ‘Crossing boundaries: Women’s gossip, insults and violence in sixteenth-century France’ has been published in a special edition, ‘Embattled Faiths in Early Modern France: Essays in Honour of Robin Briggs’, of the scholarly journal French History.

The abstract is below, and you can read it here in its published form in French History (volume 25, issue 4, December 2011, 408-426) if you are subscribed to French History or have institutional access to online scholarly journals.

There is a pre-print manuscript version of the article here: Crossing boundaries Lipscomb French History final manuscript for those who don’t have such access.


Using evidence from cases recorded in the registers of the consistories of southern France, the author investigates the way in which Languedocian women policed each other’s behaviour, enforcing a collective morality through gossip, sexual insult and physical confrontation. In contrast to case studies by other historians, it is argued here that gossip does appear to have been a peculiarly female activity, but far more than simply being an outlet for malice or prurience, it gave women a distinctive social role in the town. No less evident is the involvement of women in physical violence both against each other and against men, violence which, though less extreme than its male counterpart, nonetheless occupies a significant role in the proceedings of the consistories.