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Emotions, gender expectations and the social role of Chancery, 1550-1650

Capern, Amanda L.


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Dr Amanda Capern
Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Women's History


Susan Broomhall


Chancery was a court that became infamous for provoking anger, contempt, distrust, and disgust, even loathing and rage, two basic emotions that feature right at the centre of Robert Plutchik’s three-dimensional emotions wheel. Chancery never became well known for the positive basic emotion of joy.1 Yet, some litigants must have experienced a happy outcome. All literary representations of Chancery have been overwhelmingly negative. Charlotte Smith's The Old Manor House of 1793 portrayed the jealous viciousness of Mrs Lennard and her hidden will alongside the stifling orderliness of the court, with its dull annual reports and opaque precedents.2 In 1920, John Galsworthy gave us In Cancery, one volume of the Forsyte family chronicle focused on the unforgettably mean and proud 'man of property', Soames Forsyte, whose 'possessive instinct never stands still' and extends to his wife.3 Again the court of Chancery featured almost as a metonym for people who were jealous and obsessive and deeply interfering. And then there is Bleak House. The trundling and cripplingly expensive case over a disputed will, which Charles Dickens named Jarndyce v Jarndyce, played to a knowing readership, though, ironically, the court so hated by the Victorians had a structure and procedures that originally developed from the late sixteenth century under Thomas Egerton, Lord Ellesmere, in response to the weight of demand.


Capern, A. L. (2015). Emotions, gender expectations and the social role of Chancery, 1550-1650. In S. Broomhall (Ed.), Authority, Gender and Emotions in Late Medieval and Early Modern England (187-209). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Online Publication Date Jul 21, 2015
Publication Date Jul 9, 2015
Deposit Date Jun 2, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jul 16, 2018
Journal Authority, Gender and emotions in late medieval and early modern England
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Pages 187-209
Series Title Genders and sexualities in history
Series ISSN 2730-9479 ; 2730-9487
Book Title Authority, Gender and Emotions in Late Medieval and Early Modern England
ISBN 9781349554065
Keywords Emotions; Gender expectations
Public URL
Publisher URL Full details of the book are available at
Related Public URLs
Contract Date Jun 2, 2017


Book chapter (209 Kb)

Copyright Statement
©2018 The author. Reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan.

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