chapter  4
26 Pages

CRUELTY AND DIVORCE

The vivid window on marriage which was opened to the public by press reports from the new Divorce Court after 1857 was one vital factor stimulating changes in attitudes to marriage by the end of the century. It contributed to a process which rendered the private unit of the family a more public property subject to regulation, opening marital behaviour of both sexes to more regular scrutiny. Paradoxically, at the very moment when the transformation of marriage from an economic institution to a private relationship was being consolidated, its privacy was compromised by intrusive scrutiny and surveillance. This was facilitated by the contemporaneous spread of literacy, newspapers and reading habits that encouraged a shared newspaper culture among the middle class.1