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Seminar 5: Domestic Violence

Primary Sources

Key Reading

  • Clive Emsley, Crime and Society in England, chapter 4

Secondary Sources

Further reading on domestic violence may be found here.

  • Jo Aitken, 'The horrors of matrimony among the masses" : Feminist Representations of Wife Beating in England and Australia, 1870-1914', Journal of Women's History, 19 (2007), pp. 107-31
  • Joanne Bailey, 'English Marital Violence in Litigation, Literature and the Press', Journal of Women's History, 19 (2007), pp. 144-53
  • J. Carter Wood, Violence and Crime in Nineteenth-Century England, especially pp. 61-70
  • Anna Clark, The Struggle for the Breeches, especially chapter 5
  • Anna Clark, ‘Humanity or Justice? Wife-beating and the Law in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’, in Carol Smart, Regulating Womanhood: Historical Essays on Marriage, Motherhood and Sexuality


  • Why was domestic abuse so prevalent in Britain?
  • Was it just a working-class phenomenon?
  • Did the state legitimise violence within the home?
  • What were the connections between campaigns against domestic abuse and feminism?
  • What do we learn about power relations in the family from studying domestic violence?
  • How do attitudes to domestic violence change over the period?