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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: June 2020

6 - Abductions

from Part II - Ways to Marriage


Abduction can be described as the practice of carrying off a woman with the purpose of compelling her to marry a particular man who would then have access to the available dowry of money, land or other property, tied to the woman. Abduction was a noted phenomenon of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and, within the context of the history of marriage in Ireland, reflects the desire, and in some cases the ability, of couples to overcome parental decisions on their marriage partners, but perhaps primarily the desire among individuals and families for property and status that was achievable through marriage. Abduction was most often a crime of considerable terror and violence and it is worth exploring for what it says about marriage strategy, attitudes to marriage, consent, parental authority and property, women’s agency in choosing a marriage partner and the value of women in Irish society. Abduction in Ireland between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries was a common practice. In this chapter we examine the motives behind, and assess reactions, to abductions, including the role of the family and wider community in this often very violent enterprise.

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