chapter  27
15 Pages

Modern Views of Marginality in Pre-Industrial Europe

WithMary Jane Parrine

For those of us whose working lives are ruled by bureaucratic hierarchies and organization charts, it may seem strange to think about research based on the importance of the marginal. It may seem even stranger to accept a theory that the coherence of a society can be fully understood only by studying its fringes as well as its center. Yet this theory is at the very heart of an enormous body of historical research and publishing that continues to flourish. The focus of this research is on society’s margins – individuals or groups outside the norms of convention or law. They include not just the poor and criminals, but also any person or group considered to be deviant, including the mentally ill and those whose sexual practices were thought to be unlawful or sinful.