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History General

Wounded Feelings

Litigating Emotions in Quebec, 1870-1950

by (author) Eric H. Reiter

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2019
General, Legal History, General
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2019
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2019
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
    List Price

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Wounded Feelings is the first legal history of emotions in Canada. Through detailed histories of how people litigated emotional injuries like dishonour, humiliation, grief, and betrayal before the Quebec civil courts from 1870 to 1950, Eric H. Reiter explores the confrontation between people’s lived experience of emotion and the legal categories and terminology of lawyers, judges, and courts. Drawing on archival case files, newspapers, and contemporary legal writings, he examines how individuals narrated their claims of injured feelings and how the courts assessed those claims using legal rules, social norms, and the judges’ own feelings to validate certain emotional injuries and reject others.


The cases reveal both contemporary views of emotion as well as the family, gender, class, linguistic, and racial dynamics that shaped those understandings and their adjudication. Examples include a family’s grief over their infant son’s death due to a physician’s prescription error, a wealthy woman’s mortification at being harassed by a conductor aboard a train, and a Black man's indignation at being denied seats at a Montreal cinema. The book also traces an important legal change in how moral injury was conceptualized in Quebec civil law over the period as it came to be linked to the developing idea of personality rights. By 1950 the subjective richness of stories of wounded feelings was increasingly put into the language of violated rights, a development with implications for both social understandings of emotion and how individuals presented their emotional injuries in court.

About the author

Eric H. Reiter is Associate Professor in the Department of History, Concordia University, and a member of the Barreau du Québec. His publications have recently appeared in the Indigenous Law Journal, the Canadian Bar Review, and the Journal of Civil Law Studies. He is currently working on a book on social and legal ideas of honour and other intangible interests in 19th- and 20thcentury Quebec.


Eric H. Reiter's profile page


  • Winner, La Fondation du Barreau du Québec prix des meilleures monographies
  • Winner, Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Scholarly Research
  • Winner, CHA Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize

Editorial Reviews

"This book masterfully blends jurisprudence and legislation, with emphasis on the Quebec Civil Code, to elucidate how the subjectivity of emotions has been legally interpreted over time. […] Wounded Feelings provides a uniquely Canadian perspective on the interrelated topics of litigation, social history, legal history, and human sentiment. Upon reading, it is clear why this book has been so well received. This book comes highly recommended for academic law libraries, as well as the history collections of academic libraries."

<em>Canadian Law Library Review </em>

"Wounded Feelings is a very rich book that less seeks to provide a simple explanation of what emotional suffering was meant to be than to use discussions of such feeling as an access point to how people considered questions of self, reputation, bodily autonomy, and personal rights."


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