Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 December 2009
This chapter suggests that it was the innovations of this period that began the long-term shift in popular responses to dealing with marital violence. The introduction of the ‘new police’ under Sir Robert Peel, the ‘professionalisation’ of medicine, and legislation that increased the powers of magistrates, occasionally brought practical benefits for wives with violent husbands, but more importantly they started a process of change in which responsibility for dealing with marital violence was adjusted. By the mid-nineteenth century it was becoming possible to designate marital violence as a matter that might be dealt with by the police, doctors or magistrates, rather than solely by the informal intervention of those who were related or lived nearest to the woman affected. We see only the seeds of change within the period covered by this book, not their full development. ‘Amateur’ assistance for wives remained important, and was never wholly replaced by the professionals. Furthermore, change was far from uniform; it was Rachael Norcott, not Mary Veitch who had as one of her witnesses a surgeon who previously treated her injuries. Nevertheless, the groundwork had been laid, and in the future it would be third parties who would be left to manage the effects of marital violence.
The period between the Restoration and the mid-nineteenth century was one of transition in the development of the professions. During this period, clergymen, parish and poor law officials, constables, JPs, the police and medical practitioners were not seen as ‘outsiders’.