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Irish Divorce
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Book description

This is the first history of Irish divorce. Spanning the island of Ireland over three centuries, it places the human experience of marriage breakdown centre stage to explore the impact of a highly restrictive and gendered law and its reform. It considers the accessibility of Irish divorce as it moved from a parliamentary process in Westminster, the Irish parliament and the Northern Ireland parliament to a court-based process. This socio-legal approach allows changing definitions of gendered marital roles and marital cruelty to be assessed. In charting the exceptionalism of Ireland's divorce provision in a European and imperial framework, the study uncovers governmental reluctance to reform Irish divorce law which spans jurisdictions and centuries. This was therefore not only a law dictated by religious strictures but also by a long-lived moral conservatism.


'Covering the past four hundred years, this is a major contribution to legal, social and gender history. Urquhart’s work is highly revealing about the double-standards towards sexual behaviour, Irish exceptionalism, Catholic and Protestant attitudes towards moral questions, and absence of legal uniformity under the Union.'

Mary E. Daly - University College Dublin

'This is a superb book - ambitious in scope, yet securely anchored in a formidable array of sources: it is characterised both by judiciousness and by an unflagging empathy. Diane Urquhart has rescued a centrally important theme from neglect and over-simplification - and has thereby consolidated her position within the front rank of modern Irish historians.'

Alvin Jackson - University of Edinburgh

'Based on extensive archival research, including parliamentary and court evidence, memoirs, letters, and diaries, Irish Divorce provides a nuanced understanding of a practice that concerned itself with both property and gendered propriety. Urquhart makes a significant contribution to understanding the complicated relationship between church, state, and Irish society since 1700.'

Karen Steele - Texas Christian University

'Urquhart’s book represents an insightful and compassionate foray into a very new field. The first all-Ireland history of divorce, it demonstrates how marriage breakdown reflected society’s need to regulate succession, sexuality, and legitimacy. This exceptional work charts divorce’s role in shaping, and reflecting, modern Ireland’s attitude to gender and citizenship.'

Oonagh Walsh - Glasgow Caledonian University

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