Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Seminar 14

Seminar 14: The State and Family Breakdown Patterns of marriage and divorce have altered beyond recognition over the course of the second half of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Before 1857, freedom to remarry could only be obtained by an act of Parliament, by the beginning of the twenty-first century two in five marriages ended in divorce. In this seminar we will consider how the changes brought about by acts such as the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 and Divorce Reform Act of 1969 changed the experience of marriage and divorce for the British people, and what this meant for family life. Seminar/Essay Questions:
  1. Why did traditional forms of marriage and family life remain dominant until the 1960s?
  2. Was ‘companionate marriage’ ever more than an unattainable ideal?
  3. ‘Marriage for women is almost always a mistake’ (Ann Oakley). Do you agree?
  4. Is family breakdown a result of the ‘Welfare State’?
Seminar Reading: J. R. Gillis, ‘A Triumph of Hope Over Experience’- Chance and Choice in the History of Marriage’ International Review of Social History 44 (1999) 47-54. C. Langhamer, ‘Adultery in Post-war England’ History Workshop Journal 62 (2006) 87-115. G. Savage ‘Erotic Stories and Public Decency - Newspaper Reporting of Divorce Proceedings in England’ Historical Journal 41 (1998) 511-528. C. Smart and B. Neale, ‘Good Enough Morality? Divorce and Postmodernity’ Critical Social Policy 17 (1997) 3-27. J. Tosh, ‘From Keighley to St Denis: Separation and Intimacy in Victorian Bourgeois Marriage’, History Workshop Journal 40 (1995) 193-206.Additional Reading: J. Burgoyne et al, Divorce Matters (1987). C. Clulow (ed.), Women, Men and Marriage: Talks from the Tavistock Marital Studies Institute (1995).

M. Collins, Modern Love (2003). R. Fletcher, The Family and Marriage in Britain (1966). J. Gillis, For Better For Worse. British Marriage 1600 to the Present (1985). C. Hamilton, Marriage as a Trade (1909). J. Hammerton, Cruelty and Companionship: Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Married Life (1992). J. Harris, Edwardian Stories of Divorce (2006). A. Horstam, Victorian Divorce (1985). P. Jalland, Women, Marriage and Politics 1860-1914 (1986). J. Lewis, The End of Marriage? Individualism and Individual Relations (2001). J. Lewis, ‘Marriage’ in I. Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Women in Twentieth-Century Britain (2001). J. McAleer, ‘Scenes from Love and Marriage: Mills and Boon and the Popular Reading Industry in Britain, 1908-1950’ Twentieth-Century British History 1 (1990) 264-88. A. McLaren, Twentieth Century Sexuality - A History (1999). R.B. Outhwaite (ed.), Marriage and Society: Studies in the Social History of Marriage (1981). R. Philips, Untying the Knot. A Short History of Divorce (1991). Royal Commission on Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, Report (1912). Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce, Report (1956).

E.B. Silva and C. Smart (eds.), The New Family (1999).

C. Smart, ‘Divorce in England 1950-2000: A Moral Tale?’, in S. Katz, J. Eekelaar and M. Maclean (eds.), Cross Currents: Family Law and Policy in the US and England (2000), 363-387. E. Slater and M. Woodside, Patterns of Marriage: A Study of Marriage Relationships in the Urban Working Classes (1951). L. Stone, Road to Divorce, England 1530-1987 (1990). M. Tromp, The Private Rod: Marital Violence, Sensation and the Law in Victorian Britain (2000).