A Punishment for Each Criminal

Gender and Crime in Swedish Medieval Law

A Punishment for Each Criminal is the first in-depth analysis of how gender influenced Swedish medieval law. Christine Ekholst demonstrates how the law codes gradually and unevenly introduced women as possible perpetrators for all serious crimes. The laws reveal that legislators not only expected men and women to commit different types of crimes; they also punished men and women in different ways if they were convicted. The laws consistently stipulated different methods of executions for men and women; while men were hanged or broken on the wheel, women were buried alive, stoned, or burned at the stake. A Punishment for Each Criminal explores the background to the important legislative changes that took place when women were made personally responsible for their own crimes.

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Christine Ekholst, Ph.D in history (Stockholm University, 2009) is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph, Canada and a Research Associate at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She has published several articles on violence, gender and sexuality in medieval Sweden. Her current research project is a study of late medieval kings and queens accused of sexual transgressions.
"Medieval historians generally dismiss Scandinavia as an oddity, distinctly un-European in its development, and, as such, incapable of offering insight into broader European trends. Nonetheless, the Sweden that Ekholst describes is conspicuously European. Her book establishes how a study of gender in that context can offer powerful insight into broader discussions in medieval history … Ekholst’s comprehensive study of gender and crime in medieval Sweden is a delight to read and a valuable contribution to the study of women and the law."
Sara M. Butler, Law and History Review, Vol. 33, No. 2
Acknowledgments vi
Abbreviations and Reference System …vii


1 The Swedish Medieval Law Codes…5
2 To Have and To Take: Property Crimes 34
3 Assault and Lesser Violence …76
4 Lethal Violence: Homicide, Murder, Arson and Witchcraft …108
5 Sexual Crimes: Fornication, Adultery and Bestiality …151
6 Taking a Woman with Force: Rape and Abduction …190
7 Conclusions …209

Sources and Bibliography …222
Index …236
All interested in gender history, legal history, the history of crime and violence, the history of sexuality or Scandinavian history.