Family and Social Trends: Chronology

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1350 - 1600: Family and Social Trends: Chronology




  • John Rykener, who was going by the name of Eleanor, is arrested in England while wearing women's clothes and offering to perform illegal sexual services, and is brought before court. It is one of the few recorded instances of homosexual and transvestite activity during the Renaissance.


  • There are, on average, 14.4 maternal deaths for every one thousand births in Florence, Italy. The actual figure may be as high as 20 percent.


  • French poet Christine de Pizan publishes The Book of the City of Ladies, which refutes assumptions questioning the ability of women to succeed in public roles.


  • De Pizan writes an advice book for women titled The Book of Three Virtues, which classifies the roles of women.


  • Florence allows the establishment of public brothels.



  • Italian painter Masaccio (Tommaso di Giovanni di Simone Guidi) completes the Madonna Enthroned with Christ Child for the central panel of a Pisa altarpiece, which presents Mary as more of an earthly mother, rather than an otherworldly figure, with a human child.


  • St. Bernardino of Siena delivers forty- five sermons, among which are several on the duties of wives and widows and the relationship between spouses.


*Denotes circa date

  • Italian humanist, architect, painter, and writer Leon Battista Alberti publishes On the Family in the Italian vernacular, rather than in Latin, in order to broaden public access to the work. It is the first in a series of advice books.


  • Italian painter Domenico Ghirlandajo, a noted fresco artist of the Florentine school, completes “An Old Man and His Grandson,” a portrait of an elderly grandfather, with a disfiguring disease (elephantiasis), tenderly holding his young grandchild.


  • Malleus Maleficarum, the standard handbook for detecting and eradicating witchcraft, which helped inspire a witch-hunting hysteria, is published by Johann Sprenger and Heinrich Kraemer.


  • Syphilis (Treponema pallidum) appears for the first time in Europe, in Barcelona, evidently brought by Christopher Columbus's sailors after his voyage to the West Indies.


  • Rise of churching, an after-birthing purification ceremony for infants and mothers.


  • The well-educated Italian Isabella d'Este becomes the leader of Mantua, and founds a school with a concentration on moral education for young women.


  • German doctor Eucharius Rösslin publishes Rosengarten für swangere Frauen und Hebammen (Rosegarden for Midwives and Pregnant Women), a guide for midwives.


  • German artist Lucas Cranach paints “Reclining River Nymph at the Fountain,” one of a series of paintings that portrays the female body in elegant, yet unrealistic poses that fit German tastes, which will lead toward more erotic representations in his later work.


  • Italian diplomat Baldassare Castiglione's Il cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier), which celebrates ideal courtly life, is published.


  • Abortion is made a capital offense in the Holy Roman Empire.


  • Cities in Italy begin enforcing laws restricting the movements and dress of courtesans.


  • Scottish religious reformer John Knox, a former ordained Catholic priest who converted to Protestantism (Calvinism), publishes First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, an attack on the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary that generally assails the competence of women to rule.


  • The city council of Nuremburg closes its brothels.


  • German religious reformer Martin Luther's book On Marriage is published.
  • Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder completes “The Wedding Dance,” one of a series of pieces that reveal the life of ordinary people. Children are often portrayed in his works, such as in “Young Folk at Play” (or “Children's Games,” 1560), which reveals nearly eighty different activities, including twenty games.


  • English writer Hugh Rhodes publishes Book of Nurture, detailing what behavior is expected from children and advice on their proper upbringing by adults.


  • English writer Reginald Scot publishes Discoverie of Witchcraft, an attack on the superstition involved in witchcraft.


  • Start of the Portuguese Inquisition, in which many homosexuals were targeted for discipline and punishment by Catholic authorities.


  • Luis de León, a Spanish lyric poet and religious writer best known for De los nombres de Cristo (1583), writes La perfecta casada (The Perfect Wife), which reinforces male-dominated views of the inferiority of women.

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Family and Social Trends: Chronology

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