Policing marriage under the 'tree of despotism': The struggle over marital, civic and police-judicial relations in mid-nineteenth-century Edinburgh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

© The Scottish Historical Review Trust 2016. In 1850 an attempt by the Conservative MP for Bute, James Wortley, to legalise marriage with a deceased wife's sister kick-started an unprecedented and remarkable chain of events in Edinburgh. Over a few short weeks, Scotland's capital became embroiled in a power struggle that would bring Presbyterian churchmen together in a manner that few issues had done since the Disruption, involve the city's religious, civic and judicial elites in a high-profile disturbance and trial, and lay the foundations for a landmark judicial ruling. Although touching upon a number of important historiographical themes relating to marriage, religion, Scottish national identity, and church-state relations, what binds the story together was not only the personalities involved, the events that unfolded, or the perceived conceptual links between them, but male anxieties over control, governance, and masculine honour. In reconstructing this narrative, the essay argues that this was a controversy not just about marriage law, or the perceived abuse of police and judicial power, but of male authority-within the household, the church, and municipal office. It sheds new light on the important role that Scottish values, beliefs, and traditions played in the marriage with a deceased wife's sister debate, and furthers historiographical understanding on police-judicial relations by exploring the intricacies of mid-nineteenthcentury Scottish governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-87
JournalScottish Historical Review
Volume95
Issue number1
Early online dateMar 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

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