Women as Legal Agents in Late Medieval Genoa

  • Jamie Smith
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


On what was likely a blustery day in early February 1392, before the warmer winds would carry sands from Africa to dust the narrow streets and stone buildings in the port city of Genoa, Petra Pallavicino invited her relative Marieta Palavicino to her home to conduct family business. Petra also had summoned the city notary whom the family often employed, one Oberto Foglieta, to record the following transaction: Petra, as the legal guardian to her young children, sold a plot of land containing a house that her children had inherited from their late grandfather to Marieta’s husband with Marieta standing as her husband’s procurator.


Legal Guardian Legal Representative Legal Text Legal Code American Philosophical Society 
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  1. 1.
    Medieval law maintained the Roman jurist Ulpian’s definition of a procurator, “one who administers another’s affairs by the mandate of the principal,” but the office was expanded from classical times as the demands of the Commercial Revolution forced a reconsideration of agency. Donald E. Queller, “Thirteenth-Century Diplomatic Envoys: Nuncii and Procuratores,” Speculum 35 (1960): 202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For facility, I will use the term “legal guardian” to signify the legal offices of tutor and curator. The type of guardianship depended on legal ages of the wards. From birth to age 17 for boys and 15 for girls, the laws required that children have a tutor. Between those ages until age 25 for both sexes, youths received a curator as their legal guardian. Tutors and curators differed not in their mission, but in how they needed to carry out their responsibilities and in culpability and restitution. For a greater discussion, see Jamie Smith, “Navigating Absence: Law and the Family in Genoa, 1380–1420,” PhD diss., University of Toronto, 2007, pp. 103–110.Google Scholar
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© Charlotte Newman Goldy and Amy Livingstone 2012

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  • Jamie Smith

There are no affiliations available

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