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Gender and justice : violence, intimacy, and community in fin-de-siècle Paris

Varley, K. (2011) Gender and justice : violence, intimacy, and community in fin-de-siècle Paris. [Review]

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Gender and Justice: Violence, Intimacy, and Community in Fin-de-Siècle Paris by, Eliza Earle Ferguson, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press, 2010, 268 pp, £31.00, 978 08018 94282 Crimes passionelles were a staple of late nineteenth-century culture and a subject of fascination for many observers in France and across Europe. In this book, Ferguson explores how such crimes, defined as those involving love between married or unmarried couples, proliferated in the late nineteenth-century press. The coverage of these trials spread fears about the decay of modern family life in an era of social change and discourses of degeneration. By examining 264 dossiers from the Paris cour d'assises relating to violent crimes between domestic partners between 1871 and 1900, Ferguson seeks to gain insights into three aspects of fin-de-siècle Paris. The first is what Ferguson describes as ‘working people’ discussing their daily lives. The second is how private feuds that had hitherto been settled by violence were transferred to the realms of the state judicial system. The third is how the history of intimate violence sheds light on gendered power relations within households and shifting constructions of masculinity and femininity.