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Marriage in Ireland, 1660–1925

  • Date Published: June 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108731904


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About the Authors
  • What were the laws on marriage in Ireland, and did church and state differ in their interpretation? How did men and women meet and arrange to marry? How important was patriarchy and a husband's control over his wife? And what were the options available to Irish men and women who wished to leave an unhappy marriage? This first comprehensive history of marriage in Ireland across three centuries looks below the level of elite society for a multi-faceted exploration of how marriage was perceived, negotiated and controlled by the church and state, as well as by individual men and women within Irish society. Making extensive use of new and under-utilised primary sources, Maria Luddy and Mary O'Dowd explain the laws and customs around marriage in Ireland. Revising current understandings of marital law and relations, Marriage in Ireland, 1660–1925 represents a major new contribution to Irish historical studies.

    • This wide-ranging history of marriage in Ireland looks below the level of elite society for the first time
    • Revises current understandings of marriage law, courtship, marital relations, desertion, separation and divorce within Ireland
    • Clarifies complicated marriage laws in the context of the various religious denominations and their relationship with the State
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'What did marriage in Ireland between 1660 and 1923 really look like? This ground-breaking study of a personal yet, public institution provides the first comprehensive account. It explains marriage law; how the middle and lower classes met, married and fared and what happened when unions failed. Individual agency and institutional control are central themes.' Bernadette Whelan, University of Limerick

    'Marriage in Ireland is a huge piece of research and analysis which will provide material for further serious work for many years. Our social history is greatly enriched by its existence.' Catriona Crowe, Irish Times

    'Illuminating.' Kim Bielenberg, Irish Independent

    'Marriage in Ireland is the perfect partnership between Luddy and O'Dowd's individual research interests. It presents a balanced and nuanced account of the history of marriage from gender, religion and class perspectives, sheds light on the 19th century construction of Ireland's image as a chaste society and provides a solid foundation for further study. Both authors are to be highly commended for this very important contribution to marriage and sexuality studies in Ireland.' Michelle Dunne, Women's History Association of Ireland (

    '… an ambitious study … for readers hoping to supplement or expand their work on marriage, family relationships, or women's legal and social positions in Ireland, this volume opens new questions and sets readers on the path to answering them.' Claire Arnold, H-Albion

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108731904
    • length: 460 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 153 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.75kg
    • contains: 20 b/w illus. 11 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. What is a Marriage?:
    1. A legal marriage?
    2. Couple beggars
    Part II. Ways to Marriage:
    3. Meeting and matching with a partner
    4. Courtship behaviour
    5. Breach of promise
    6. Abductions
    Part III. Happy Ever After?:
    7. Marital relations
    8. Adultery and sex outside marriage
    9. Bigamy
    Part IV. The Unmaking of Marriage:
    10. Marital violence
    11. Desertion
    12. Divorce
    Select bibliography

  • Authors

    Maria Luddy, University of Warwick
    Maria Luddy is Emeritus Professor of Modern Irish History at the University of Warwick and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Her book Women and Philanthropy in Nineteenth Century Ireland (1995) was awarded the James S. Donnelly Prize for best book in Irish history in 1996. She has published extensively on Irish social history, writing on unmarried mothers, nuns, and the history of Irish childhood. Her most recent publications include Prostitution and Irish Society, 1800–1940 (2007) and the co-edited collection Children, Childhood and Irish Society, 1700 to the Present (with James M. Smith, 2014).

    Mary O'Dowd, Queen's University Belfast
    Mary O'Dowd is Emeritus Professor of Gender History at Queen's University Belfast and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. She has published extensively on women and gender in Irish history. Her most recent publications include, as co-author, Reading the Irish Woman: Studies in Cultural Encounters and Exchange, 1714–1960 (with Gerardine Meaney and Bernadette Whelan, 2014) and A History of the Girl: Formation, Education and Identity (2018) which she co-edited with June Purvis.

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