Man of Honour


Breach of promise was a recurrent theme in Norwegian church and local courts until the beginning of the 18th century. A number of pregnant women sued their former suitors, arguing that their honour had been violated. As a routine the man was sentenced to marry or to give the girl satisfaction, provided the woman had an untainted reputation.These cases may be read as a set of representations and performances in which women as well as men redefined the meaning of their sexual experiences and practices, in terms of the concept of honour and ideal representations of femininity and masculinity. In this article, one particular case from the beginning of the 18th century is discussed; involving a man and a woman who negotiated about a breach of promise, and about honour and shame. The sexual behaviour of the woman was placed at the centre of her integrity, but the dialogue in court and the divergent understanding of their sexual relationship in this particular case suggest that sexual behaviour also played a part in male integrity.

How to Cite

Telste, K., (2002) “Man of Honour”, Ethnologia Europaea 32(1), 15-24. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Kari Telste (University of Oslo)



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