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Elusive Virtue: Rethinking the Role of Female Chastity in Early Modern Spain

In: Journal of Early Modern History
Author:
Allyson Poska
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Abstract

For decades, scholars have emphasized the importance of female chastity in early modern Spanish society. Early modern thinkers enthusiastically promoted the notion in their works, Mediterranean anthropologists formulated a cultural model around female chastity through their studies, and early modern historians followed suit in their examinations of the Catholic Reformation. However, this analysis of recent works on gender and the extensive demographic literature on early modern Spain reveals that there is little evidence that female chastity was a priority for most Spaniards. Instead, demography, economy, class, and the influence of regional cultures may have had more of an impact on the development of sexual mores than any overarching cultural program.

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