Crime and gender in Frankfurt am Main, 1600-1806

This project examines the criminal court records of Frankfurt am Main, Germany (1600-1806).



  • The criminal court records of Frankfurt am Main (1600-1806) provide extensive and detailed information about crimes and trials, including statements by witnesses and the accused, and other people who were involved; advisory notes from law faculties or other legal experts; documents of the defendants, petitions from acquaintances of the accused, and various writings about the cases. The criminal records or ‘Criminalia’ are held in the Institut für Stadgeschichte (ISG), Frankfurt am Main.
  • Sources providing additional information about criminal law, legislation and specific trials, such as law books, printed sources of crime, church books, and legal administration.
  • Secondary literature on moral and legal norms, family structure, labour participation, living standards, and urbanisation in Germany.


Characteristics of the German area and Frankfurt am Main

  • Authoritarian family system: less freedom regarding the choice of marriage partner and strong family ties (though female succession is not uncommon). These factors provide married women with a strong position, but in general women have a less public lifestyle and are less likely to make independent choices regarding marriage and migration, and the level of labour participation is lower (compared to England and the Netherlands).
  • Between 1600 and 1900 the level of urbanisation was lower in the German areas and cities were generally smaller than in England, Italy and the Netherlands (around 1800 the leading German city was Berlin with 170,000 inhabitants). Frankfurt am Main was a semi-large town, with 32,000 to 39,000 inhabitants around 1750-1800. In this period Frankfurt was no longer a face-to-face community, and according to German standards a ‘Grossstadt’, though small compared to London and Amsterdam (Eibach: 2008, 45).
  • Frankfurt’s economy was characterised by crafts often produced within the family household, based on traditional networks and still hardly on wage labour and free markets. Immigrants were primarily servants who were subjected to the patriarchal authority of the male head of the household. Only those who found work were free to stay in the city (exclusive regime), though they had to accept the authority of the family father (Eibach: 2003, 48-58).
  • After 1780 Frankfurt transformed from a traditional town with citizens’ rights (50% of the population) into a town within a nation state with a more restrictive regime of prosecution. During the same period economic decline led to increasing unemployment and poverty (Eibach: 2008, 338, 376).



Dissertation on crime and gender in Frankfurt am Main, 1600-1806.