Young women and men sought out each other’s company in the workshops, cabarets, and streets of Old Regime Lyon, and evidence of these relationships lingers in documents and material objects conserved in Lyon’s municipal and departmental archives. How did young workers spend time together? When would they initiate sexual relationships outside of marriage? What resources did they marshal to manage pregnancy and childbirth, and what kind of support might they expect from their neighbors, employers, and families? In paternity suits, young women provided direct answers to these questions, and left an incomparable archive testifying to their desires, hopes, loss, and often, grief resulting from “courtships gone awry.”
Today I spoke with Julie Hardwick about her new book Sex in an Old Regime City: Young Workers and Intimacy in France, 1660-1789
(Oxford UP, 2020). Hardwick is the John E. Green Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. Hardwick’s previous books include Family Business: Litigation and the Political Economy of Everyday Life in Early Modern France
(2009) and The Practice of Patriarchy: Gender and the Politics of Household Authority in Early Modern France
Jennifer J. Davis is Co-Editor, Journal of Women’s History and Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma.