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Road to DivorceEngland 1530-1987$
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Lawrence Stone

Print publication date: 1990

Print ISBN-13: 9780198226512

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198226512.001.0001

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Desertion, Elopement, and Wife-sale

Desertion, Elopement, and Wife-sale

Chapter:
(p.140) (p.141) VI Desertion, Elopement, and Wife-sale
Source:
Road to Divorce
Author(s):

Lawrence Stone

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198226512.003.0006

This chapter discusses different modes of marital break-up such as desertion, elopement, and wife-sale. There were five distinct ways in which the break-up of marriage in England could occur in the early modern period, the first two of which involved litigation. These two were separation from bed and board, without permission to remarry; and a full divorce, with permission to remarry. The third method, confined to the middling and better sort, was private separation. The fourth method, involving those who had little or no property, was desertion or elopement. Husbands sometimes ejected their wives and locked them out of the house, or set up a new household elsewhere with a mistress. A much rarer method of separation was by the ritual of wife-sale, a custom unique to Britain and New England, in which a husband publicly sold his wife and all legal responsibility for her and her upkeep.

Keywords:   desertion, elopement, wife-sale, marital break-up, separation, cruelty

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