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2 - Resisting violence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2009

Elizabeth Foyster
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Rachael Norcott first fled from her husband John's violence in 1664, when she sought refuge with one of her sisters. John found her there, and facing criticism for his behaviour from Rachael's family and friends, dramatically wished, ‘that his tongue might rot out if ever he abused her again’. Such words appear to have persuaded Rachael to return to her husband, for she was to endure another two years of violence before she began separation proceedings.

Asking why women remain with violent men is a question that is frequently asked today, but this is in a society where divorce is widely available. During the period of this study, divorce was not possible on the grounds of violence, and there were many economic and social factors that acted to dissuade women from pursuing a marriage separation on the basis of cruelty. Thus, even if their personal safety was at risk, some women calculated that it was not in their best interests to leave. From the Restoration to the mid-nineteenth century, a more relevant enquiry was not why women stayed with violent husbands, but how women learnt to cope with their violent partners. Thus on 12 March 1789 one London debating society considered the motion, put forward by ‘a young lady’, whether ‘a Lady that is married to a tyrannical husband be more likely to promote her own happiness by a spirited opposition, or a patient submission to his temper and conduct?’

Type
Chapter
Information
Marital Violence
An English Family History, 1660–1857
, pp. 84 - 128
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2005

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  • Resisting violence
  • Elizabeth Foyster, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Marital Violence
  • Online publication: 18 December 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511495809.004
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  • Resisting violence
  • Elizabeth Foyster, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Marital Violence
  • Online publication: 18 December 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511495809.004
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Resisting violence
  • Elizabeth Foyster, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Marital Violence
  • Online publication: 18 December 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511495809.004
Available formats
×