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Unquiet Lives
Marriage and Marriage Breakdown in England, 1660–1800


Part of Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History

  • Date Published: January 2009
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521093118

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About the Authors
  • Based on vivid court records and newspaper advertisements, this 2003 book is a pioneering account of the expectations and experiences of married life among the middle and labouring ranks in the long eighteenth century. Its original methodology draws attention to the material life of marriage, which has long been dominated by theories of emotional shifts or fashionable accounts of spouses' gendered, oppositional lives. Thus it challenges preconceptions about authority in the household, by showing the extent to which husbands depended upon their wives' vital economic activities: household management and child care. Not only did this forge co-dependency between spouses, it undermined men's autonomy. The power balance within marriage is further revised by evidence that the sexual double standard was not rigidly applied in everyday life. The book also shows that ideas about adultery and domestic violence evolved in the eighteenth century, influenced by new models of masculinity and femininity.

    • An unusually detailed model of married life in the eighteenth century, which stresses co-dependency between husband and wife
    • Charts thinking towards violence and adultery in the eighteenth century, focusing as much on men's needs and dependence as on those of women
    • Uses a combination of sources to provide social and gender insights into married life
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'This is a carefully researched book that enriches our understanding of marriage in the long eighteenth century.' Reviews in History

    Review of the hardback: '… subtle, rich and humane picture of the realities and practicalities of marriage as lived.' Women's History Magazine

    Review of the hardback: '… lively and often trenchant study … Bailey backs up a sensitive reading of texts and contexts with judicious quantification.' History

    Review of the hardback: '… wide range of issues … important new book …' Journal of Continuity and Change

    Review of the hardback: 'This book successfully meets it's claim to be "a pioneering account of the expectations and experiences of married life among the middle and labouring ranks in the long eighteenth century. ... an excellent analysis of the crazy and changing popular assumptions about male and female bodies which underlines domestic violence. ... full of interesting, minutely researched, historical detail ... a fascinating work for the general reader, and a neccessary work for historians of marriage.' INTAMS

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521093118
    • length: 264 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.39kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: assessing marriage
    2. 'To have and to hold': analysing married life
    3. 'For better, for worse': resolving marital difficulties
    4. 'An honourable estate': marital roles in the household
    5. 'With all my worldly goods I thee endow': spouses' contributions and possessions within marriage
    6. 'Wilt thou obey him and serve him': the marital power balance
    7. 'Forsaking all other': marital chastity
    8. 'Till death us do part': life after a failed marriage
    9. 'Mutual society, help and comfort': conclusion

  • Author

    Joanne Bailey, Merton College, Oxford
    Joanne Bailey is a Junior research Fellow, Merton College, Oxford.

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