Untying the Knot: An Analysis of the English Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Court Records, 1858-1866


This paper is an analysis of the petitions, answers, affidavits, and court docket for the first nine years of the English divorce and matrimonial causes court. It examines in detail the child custody, alimony, gender, and class components of the court’s first nine years. After analyzing the petitions and court docket along gender lines for the different causes of action (divorce, separation, annulment, and restitution of conjugal rights), and their success rate by gender and by age of the marriage, it then breaks down marriages by age and speculates on a variety of causes for the different results and considers how gender differences and power imbalances in nineteenth-century society influenced the decisions of both men and women to terminate their marriages.


Comparative and Foreign Law | Family Law | Law and Gender | Legal History

Date of this Version

June 2006