The Western Archetypes of Albanian Civic Women in the Late Middle Ages (13th-15th centuries)

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Ermal Baze, Andi Pinari


Background: Given the postulate that to judge the level of development of a society you need to know the level of emancipation of women, I am trying to address some essential issues regarding the socio-legal rights of Albanian women in the late Middle Ages. In this paper I will address, in a synthesized way, issues related to the status of women in urban settings in a particular area of Albania in the late Middle Ages, such as in Shkodra (Scutari), Durrës, Ulcinj, Bar (Antivari), etc. In contrast to data from customary law (characteristic of the rural and mountainous areas of local government in the Principality of Albania) documentary sources of the time provide a relatively large amount of information regarding the role and importance of the figure of the woman in the other half of Medieval Albanian civilization (namely in that of autonomous cities),  and shed light on the legal and penal protection of her person, dignity and honour. In cases of murder, assault, insult, violence and rape against women, no individual, neither layperson nor clergy, had immunity from prosecution before the law. The misappropriation or embezzlement of a woman's dowry, her right to draft a will, or to represent her husband in a lawsuit in his absence, as well as other situations or combinations of these, convince us that respect for the rights of woman and protection of her dignity in the period of the late Middle Ages, were genuine and seriously appreciated. The general panorama of the social position of women in Albania in the 14th - 15th centuries was similar to the medieval models and practices of medieval civic society in Italo-Dalmatian cities and those of the Western Adriatic and Mediterranean area.

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