Though the law and courts of nineteenth-century Peru were institutions created by and for the ruling elite, women of all classes used the system to negotiate the complexities of property rights, childrearing, and marriage, and often to defend their very definitions of honor. Drawing on the trial transcripts of Cajamarca, a northern Peruvian province, from more than a century ago, this book shares eye-opening details about life among this community, in which reputation could determine a woman's chances of survival.
Exploring the processes of courtship, seduction, and familial duties revealed in these court records, historian Tanja Christiansen has unearthed a compelling panorama that includes marital strife, slander, disobedience, street brawls, and spousal abuse alongside documents that give evidence of affection and devotion. Her research also yields much new information about the protocols for conflict and cooperation among nineteenth-century Peruvian women from all social strata, and the prevalence of informal unions in an economy driven in large part by migratory male labor. Reviving a little-known aspect of Latin American history, Christiansen's book simultaneously brings to light an important microcosm of women's history during the nineteenth century.