Traditionally, activities to maintain law and order in medieval society have been considered a masculine preserve. Medieval women were thought subordinate to men due to dominant religious and medical perceptions of women and the female body, and this in turn affected the way they were treated by the law. Medieval law courts were ‘“gendered” masculine’ because they used the male language of law and were sites for the ‘negotiation and reinforcement of masculinity’. Thus, the law courts, although available for use by women, were run by men and fostered masculine ideals; ‘law and language simply did not co-operate in the same way’ for women. This was largely because of women's legal status as dependents, whereby they were subservient to a male head of household, usually a father or husband. Even though it was possible for a single woman to become head of a household, perhaps if she had been widowed, her position as such was more limited than that of a male counterpart. A study of the socio-legal practice of the hue and cry however, reveals that there was a role for women in the realm of the law.
This study explores the hue and cry in the context of fourteenth-century Great Yarmouth.