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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 May 2021

Desertion, Elopement, and Wife-sale

Desertion, Elopement, and Wife-sale

(p.140) (p.141) VI Desertion, Elopement, and Wife-sale
Road to Divorce

Lawrence Stone

Oxford University Press

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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