Recent historical scholarship has exposed the role of violence within the multiple dynamics of family life, providing important insights into gender relations and the abuse of power within domestic, conjugal relationships. With good reason, the analysis has privileged the experiences of women as victims of such violence in the past. Without denying this important characteristic of domestic violence, it may be helpful to expand the range of actions and actors to be considered when exploring its history. By scrutinizing the leading role played by women who used violence in the home, and by interrogating untapped sources such as newspaper accounts, the records of magistrates' courts or administrative records from charitable institutions, for example, for evidence of how other subordinate persons such as servants, apprentices and, of course, children, were also subjected to harsh physical correction and, in some terrible cases, systematic abuse, a clearer understanding of the eighteenth century thresholds of tolerance for such violence emerges. By expanding the compass of domestic violence, the subjective and discretionary application of the law in specific cases becomes better contextualized as the wide continuum for the role of violence in everyday life in eighteenth-century England comes more fully into focus.


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pp. 31-54
Launched on MUSE
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