Law and History Review


Contumacy, Defense Strategy, and Criminal Law in Late Medieval Italy

Joanna Carraway c1

It is easy to imagine that on this early morning in 1395, Antonius, realizing the magnitude of his actions, had little time to fabricate a defense or construct a plan. In late fourteenth-century Reggio Emilia, flight was often the most desirable path open to those suspected of perpetrating felonies. Subsequent witnesses in this murder investigation speculated that Antonius fled the territory of the Villa de Vetto before the first light of day less to evade the law than to avoid the wrath of Caterina's relatives. Propelled by the need to escape retribution, Antonius, like almost half the defendants cited by the criminal court of Reggio Emilia, fled rather than appear before the criminal judge.

(Online publication February 14 2011)

Joanna Carraway is an assistant professor of medieval history at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri <>. She thanks the editor and the anonymous readers of LHR, whose invaluable advice greatly benefitted this essay. She also thanks Sarah Rubin Blanshei for her key insights. This study rests on research that was supported by a grant from the Medieval Academy of America, and by the Presidential Grant of Rockhurst University. An early version of this research was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in 2007.