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New directions in researching the history of domestic violence

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This paper suggests some new ways of investigating the history of domestic violence.

This paper suggests some new ways of investigating the history of domestic violence.

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  • Historical research into marital violence has been underway long enough for a couple of shifts to be identifiable in approach and findings. Pioneering work in the 1970-80s driven by historians of women and feminist historians, as well as crime historians, brought the history of marital violence under scrutiny and established it was worth exploring. One of the aims of this research agenda was to measure the incidence of marital violence and how that impacted on marital relationships. The majority of marital violence is enacted against women, so scholars realised its utility for exploring patriarchal society and the extent to which it oppressed women. Despite the hurdle of the lack of data on prosecuted offences, because husbands’ violence against their wives did not become a criminal offence until after 1891, there were some enterprising efforts. Nancy Tomes’ work for instance tried to quantify w- c marital violence in London. This excellent groundwork tended to see married life in general as profoundly influenced by the potential for domestic violence. Roderick Phillips argued, for instance, ‘women must have expected to be struck at some time by their husbands’.
  • In recent decades scholars have steered away from trying to find the ‘big - social - picture’ of marital violence – i.e. number of prosecuted cases - because of the limitations imposed by legal definitions of what constituted cruelty against wives. I think it is time, however, to attempt a big-picture cultural history of domestic violence. This would entail, with suitable funding, the compilation of masses of data. James Grossman describes "Big Data" in American Historical Association 2012 as ‘the zillions of pieces of information that traverse the internet, flowing across the full range of human and nonhuman activity’. Why is Big Data a way forward? Because, as Tim Hitchcock points out, with big data: ‘Suddenly, all the joys of datamining, corpus linguistics, textmining, of network analysis and interactive visualisations beckon...’
  • Have a look at Tim Hitchcock’s paper on using big data for examples of this: http://www.historyworkingpapers.org/?page_id=266Just recently there have been specific calls for gender history to head in the direction of big data as it is lagging behind in such initiatives. This is certainly the case with marital violence. First and foremost, digitised sources have not really been used to their full advantage. Yet keyword searching on various phrases even at the most rudimentary level is extremely telling.
  • Here – I’ve used Google Ngram. Maps word usage across the books in Google Books.Searched for wife beating– though all sorts of issues that you have to be aware of – as a snapshot view of the chronology of key phrases, it is fantastically helpful.
  • Here is a screenshot of a search for Cruelty – see that it was a term much more likely to be used in the 18th and 19th centuries.Text-mining concepts of disobedience, provocation, and slavery would all pay dividends too. For a further feature of marital violence that is not scrutinised thoroughly is what behaviour was understood to constitute wives’ provocation.Charting the adjectives and nouns that are used in describing marital violence and perpetrators: cruel, mad, tyrant– do they differ across different genres, trial transcripts etc. What does that tell us about changing understandings of marital violence?
  • Even simple visualisations such as this Word Cloud are pretty powerful. This was from one case – and wasn’t an exact transcript. But I’m talking about using them on a large scale to see the culture of marital or domestic violence at an extensive level. We can also extend beyond artificial periodization and include data up to very recent times to map this culture across very different legal contexts. And there is no reason why we can’t go beyond readily available digitised sources – if appropriate funding is available – to empirical and manuscript data – references to domestic violence appear in numerous places and not just the Church courts: assize or quarter sessions records, police and magistrate courts but also in coroners records, JPs note books, diaries, memoirs, medical case notes, asylum case notes, and so on. Rarely brought together often dealt with as discrete blocks of data where marital violence is concerned.My references to funding indicate, however, that Big Data is no easy route. As Grossman goes on to explain in the AHA: ‘But (and this is what matters to historians): the data are useless until we have them organized into conceptual frameworks able to answer useful questions’. And so we also need the projects to be interdisciplinary and multi-researcher led – combinations of historians, social scientists, statisticians, computer scientists. Still, if this project is not worthy of serious funding, I don’t know what is!
  • This is 2000 homicides – man killed woman. Could focus the data more accurately.There is also Historical GIS analysis of crime and criminality in Edwardian (1910-13) London: a multi-source approach http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/~gisteac/proceedingsonline/GISRUK2012/Papers/presentation-14.pdf
  • Although a history of emotions approach is being taken up increasingly in several related fields, it is only beginning to be undertaken where intimate violence is concernedand there is a lot of scope for exciting work.
  • This plea for more in-depth work on male self-control leads me into my final section.
  • They often display very specific cultures of domestic violence. So many of the Bodleian ballads, for example, feature wives beating husbands or matched spousal violence in ‘battles of the sexes’. A second vein of popular culture is the misogynistic one – found in jokes, songs, but also in what might be expected to be more mainstream media like newspapers. Amongst its general hatred of women, it includes physical and sexual violence. This continues today in rather different social, economic, and political conditions – these are adverts on Facebook which have only just recently been removed after campaigns against hate speech against women.There is work on these areas [eg Judith Bennett, Laura Gowing, Tim Reinke-williams], but their characteristics, how they functioned, what the images were/indeed are intended to convey at a wider level. In effect – what their relationship was with each other and with practice and behaviour .

Transcript

  • 1. ‘Pandora’s Box’ Suggestions for new approaches to studying the history of domestic violence Professor Joanne Bailey Oxford Brookes University A Wonder Book For Girls & Boys, designs By Walter Crane. c1892. Pandora wonders at the box
  • 2. A Wonder Book For Girls & Boys, designs By Walter Crane. c1892. Pandora opens the box Opening up cultures of violence • I propose that historians think about the history of domestic violence in new ways by actively exploring its various cultures. • I liken this to opening up Pandora’s box, for several reasons: • The allusion captures a culture of victim blaming – or if that is avoided, a focus on the victim rather than the perpetrator – for it is Pandora who is identified as the cause of all the miseries escaping into the world, rather than Prometheus whose act of stealing fire from Mount Olympus led to Pandora being given the jar, or, indeed, Zeus who engineered it all. • Also, Pandora’s box is a metaphor for the inherent problems raised in studying domestic violence – essentially, it is difficult to research and to talk about. The subject leads to heated - visceral – responses. • And, finally, Pandora did not allow hope to escape the box – and I trust I do not press my analogy too far here to observe that researching new lines of enquiry allows some hope that learning more about the cultures of domestic violence will arm societies to deal with it more effectively.
  • 3. Clarifying terms and scope • My focus is upon female victims in Britain • I realise men are victims of domestic violence too. For the sake of clarity and brevity, however, I am not going to explore this – although it does need more research - and I will focus on violence against women. • I prefer to use the term ‘cruelty’ rather than ‘wife-beating’ for the period before the later 19th c to convey the ambiguities underlying an act which in some form was permitted in law until c 1891. ‘Cruelty’ defines where discipline becomes violence • ‘Marital violence’ – between spouses • ‘Domestic violence’ – against wives, children, household- dependents (including adult men in some periods)
  • 4. Scholarship on the history of domestic violence • Historical research into marital violence has been underway long enough for a couple of shifts to be identifiable in approach and findings. • Pioneering work in the 1970-80s driven by historians of women and feminist historians, as well as crime historians, brought the history of marital violence under scrutiny and established it was worth exploring. • One of the aims of this research agenda was to measure the incidence of marital violence and how that impacted on marital relationships. • Another was that it would illuminate how far patriarchal society oppressed women – since the majority of physical marital violence is enacted against women. • This excellent groundwork tended to see married life in general as profoundly influenced by the potential for domestic violence.
  • 5. Social history • In the 1980s social historians turned to court records – particularly from the Church Courts – to explore social and marital relationships. • Sensitive to crime historians’ recognition that a ‘dark figure’ of offence existed, these historians moved away from trying to measure the frequency of marital violence. • Collectively their work demonstrated the complexities of patriarchal relationships - each directed attention at the potential gap between theoretically hierarchical relationships and their lived counterparts. • This led to the first shift in ideas about marital violence because this work showed that it is problematic to assume that patriarchy expedited violence. After all, strong-minded, strong-willed wives were admired and tyrannical husbands condemned. • Also, Amussen and Clarke historicised ideas about correction by suggesting that they mirrored those about state punishment. Broadly speaking, when the state used corporal punishment to discipline offenders, it was acceptable for men to correct their wives using measured corporal punishment. This fitted well with theories about an overarching civilising process.
  • 6. Gender history • The next paradigm shift – later 1990s-2000s – was shaped by gender history. Laura Gowing, Margaret Hunt, me, and Elizabeth Foyster investigated the gendered dynamics of marital relationships. Alex Shepard’s and John Tosh’s work on manhood shed further light by showing that many men could not achieve patriarchal manhood, and indeed men’s roles as husbands could be vulnerable. • This stage opened up the possibility that marital violence was not a straightforward act of dominance, but one of weakness. • Secondly, scholars no longer took at face value the law of chastisement, which allowed men to correct disobedient wives, and tried to establish what contemporaries meant by correction and discipline. • The consensus now is that wives did not expect to be beaten, and that society did not tolerate male violence towards wives.
  • 7. Current views • The extent to which society accepted correction, however, remains uncertain – and the spectrum of behaviour from correction to cruelty is not fully delineated or the distinctions between them clarified. • This too is starting to be addressed in a much more nuanced way. There is valuable work on the medieval period, for instance, by Sara Butler and Hannah Skoda, from the end of the 16c to the mid 19c by Prof Loreen Giese and me, and by Anne-Marie Hughes on marital violence in the post- criminalisation period. All explore the types of acts committed by perpetrators and how far they were considered violent. • Thirdly the research breaks down from the standard narrative of a civilising process for it looks as if societies have long held a range of views on what acts were acceptable. • I want to argue in the rest of the paper that there is still a great deal we don’t know and suggest some ways to reinvigorate this research.
  • 8. Suggestion 1: big data … and marital violence • In recent decades scholars have steered away from trying to find the ‘big picture’ of the social history of marital violence – i.e. number of prosecuted cases - because of the limitations imposed by legal definitions of what constituted cruelty against wives. • I think it is time, however, to attempt a big-picture cultural history of domestic violence. • This would entail, with suitable funding, the compilation of masses of data. James Grossman describes "Big Data" in American Historical Association 2012 as ‘the zillions of pieces of information that traverse the internet, flowing across the full range of human and nonhuman activity’. • Why is Big Data a way forward? Because, as Tim Hitchcock points out, with big data: ‘Suddenly, all the joys of datamining, corpus linguistics, textmining, of network analysis and interactive visualisations beckon...’
  • 9. See Tim Hitchcock’s online paper for info: http://www.historyworkingpapers.org/?page_id=266 big data … and marital violence • Recently there have been specific calls for gender history to head in the direction of big data as it is lagging behind in such initiatives. • This is certainly the case with marital violence. First and foremost, digitised sources have not really been used to their full advantage. Yet keyword searching on various phrases even at the most rudimentary level is extremely telling.
  • 10. Plotting the term ‘wifebeating’
  • 11. • Text-mining concepts of disobedience, provocation, and slavery would all pay dividends too. • How about charting the adjectives and nouns that are used in describing marital violence and perpetrators: cruel, mad, tyrant – do they differ across different genres, trial transcripts etc. • What does that tell us about changing understandings of marital violence? Plotting the term ‘cruelty’
  • 12. • Big Data is no easy route. As Grossman goes on to explain in the AHA: ‘But (and this is what matters to historians): the data are useless until we have them organized into conceptual frameworks able to answer useful questions’. • And so we also need the projects to be interdisciplinary and multi-researcher led – combinations of historians, social scientists, statisticians, computer scientists. Still, if this project is not worthy of serious funding, I don’t know what is! Word Cloud from a cruelty separation case
  • 13. Suggestion 2: Material culture … and marital violence • My next suggestion appears to be at an altogether more intimate scale at first glance, but would probably also benefit from fairly large scale data – i.e. thinking about objects and spaces. • With the material ‘turn’ in history we are increasingly aware that spaces and objects are central to the way people and societies behave and conceptualise their worlds. • The spatial turn in crime history is very helpful and could be applied to marital violence. • A version of this could be adapted for the – admittedly - less amenable data and location of domestic violence. It would be interesting to know whether prosecutions for marital violence, for instance, clustered in particular areas – which would tell us something about the reporting and policing of violence in the home. • Also –it would be great to see areas other than London selected for such enquiry? The capacity for comparative analysis would be fantastic. •
  • 14. 2000 homicides from OBP, female victim, male defendant, 1674-1819 mapped onto a 1746 map of London, Locating London’s Past http://www.locatinglondon.org/index.html • Ongoing work using GIS to map criminal prosecutions onto streets and regions. • Here is the marvellous Locating London’s Past, which is freely available and allows you to map OBP data onto a 1746 map.
  • 15. Material culture … and marital violence - space • Another possibility is to look at how violence was articulated in and around particular places, spaces and objects. John Carter Wood’s work on 19th century violence used spatial analysis to conclude that space constituted violence – w-c urban domestic environments: poor quality, overcrowded, overlooked buildings created and maintained it. • A few years ago I attempted to think about the locations of marital violence with an article mapping where cruel acts took place, as described in 50 or so separation cases on the grounds of cruelty and 90 odd trials for wife-killing reported in the OBP in the long 18th c. • I established that marital violence was extremely fluid, and though shaped by the spaces in which it occurred, it was not confined within them and crucially it did not conform to the supposed move behind closed doors. This was done without qualitative research software and could be developed much further with it. • More data would enable us to look across time – easier when homes are bigger and there was more specialised room use - and ask if there were spatial internal/external hotspots for domestic violence. Bedrooms – staircases – kitchens – stables AND WHY
  • 16. How does space constitute marital violence? Thomas Rowlandson, Ragfair, Rosemary Lane, n.d., late eighteenth century. British Museum, Binyon 44, Crace XX.188. © Trustees of the British Museum
  • 17. Material culture … and marital violence - objects • An valuable approach would be to compile accounts of marital and/or domestic violence to establish what objects were associated with it, encompassing correction, cruelty, and abuse – both imagined [eg ballads and songs, jokes] and empirical [court records, autobiographies, press]. Do tensions arise within or around specific objects? I did some work on the marital bed in terms of material culture with Dr Angela McShane at the V&A – what was clear was that while the bed was a site of life-cycle rituals related to marriage and family - childbed, sickbed, deathbed, it was also a site of potential marital tension. Marital violence was often initiated in or around beds. Was it because sex caused conflict? If we think more about the object itself, we can historicise a little more - the early modern bed was a closed space in which marital conversation was encouraged. It would be fascinating to trace this in more modern times as more specialised bed chambers developed. The two poles on the bed are ‘bed staffs’ – and in one late 17thc case I’ve seen the husband used it as a weapon against his wife.
  • 18. Material culture … and marital violence - objects • I surveyed the cases of marital violence that I have collected from Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and London in the long 18th c to see what objects were used in the enactment of violence – alongside fists and feet. • They include: bed staff, wooden charger, tankard, poker, burning coals, lit candelabra, sword, pistol, and the most peculiar – a bull’s pizzle (dried bull’s penis!).
  • 19. Material culture … and marital violence - objects • This diversity of objects, tells us something about the physicality of domestic violence – as well as its legitimacy or lack of it: • Its location, timing – morning/bed-time/meal times • The meaning of correction and cruelty: formal – informal; legitimate – illegitimate • Planned - spontaneous
  • 20. Material culture … and marital violence - objects • This approach also helps us in terms of the culture of violence – for it helps to uncover whether any particular objects were firmly associated with marital violence in popular culture. • One of the objects which we think was – the stick – would be interesting to explore. It is central to the supposed concept of the ‘rule of thumb’ – that a man could legitimately beat his wife with stick no bigger than thumb. • Very ambiguous – Maeve Doggett couldn’t trace it in legislation or legal comment, yet this cartoon points to a very solid familiarity with the concept – so perhaps there is a linguistic trace out there? • This would offer an innovative material/linguistic methodology to explore links between legal and judicial attitudes and lay attitudes – building up a layered view of the cultures of domestic violence.
  • 21. Suggestion 3: Emotions history … and marital violence • Although a history of emotions approach is being taken up increasingly in several related fields, it is only beginning to be undertaken where intimate violence is concerned and there is a lot of scope for exciting work. • There are several ways in which a history of emotions approach is relevant. • One is influenced by Barbara Rosenwein’s work - for her concept of ‘emotional communities’ can be applied here. She defines them as “social groups that adhere to the same valuations of emotions and how they should be expressed” • Clearly, the law, litigation and the juridical process made up one emotional community. What part did - the judges’ and lawyers’ feelings play in the
  • 22. Emotions history … and marital violence • Think of Thomas Erskine, who was famed for his weeping and deploying feeling language to persuade the jury, perhaps most obviously in crim.com [adultery] cases - to realise the power of this legal strategy for litigants, prosecutors and defendants. • Thomas Dixon has shown that Justice Willes cried when presiding over capital cases in the 1850s and '60s and historicised the ways in which these tears were interpreted. Click here for the article: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13555502.2011.611696#.Uzw6CVeBWZk • There was change over time, for by the time of his suicide in 1872 such displays were no longer acceptable. • Dixon has also looked at the performance of courtroom emotions as modes of control. His survey of Victorian divorce cases leads him to suggest that official [legal] regimes of emotion came ‘into contact with, and tried to classify and control, the feelings associated with everyday life in general and with marital relations in particular’. Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine Justice James Shaw Willes
  • 23. Emotions history … and marital violence • Of great interest to me is whether there were different emotional communities – court, print, family – and how these were manifested were marital violence was concerned. • For litigants and witnesses also expressed emotions before the courts – and in the correspondence with their lawyers/proctors. Did they exercise dissimilar emotional standards where marital or domestic violence was concerned? Did this lead to conflict/misunderstandings? Just look at the feelings displayed in this image from the well known series by Cruickshank – The Bottle.
  • 24. Emotions history … and marital violence • In court records the words of plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses report and convey emotions such as: fear, anxiety, anger, pain, disgust, guilt, love. • Indeed, one of the ways to demonstrate the grounds of cruelty when seeking separation was to show that a wife could not live her life due to fear. • Elizabeth Foyster explored the feelings associated with marital cruelty some time ago in a great article that has not since been followed up. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=4188424 • She showed that during the Georgian period of politeness and sensibility a husband’s impact on his wife’s feelings and nerves might be taken account of by the church courts, particularly where genteel couples were concerned. This was well before mental cruelty was accepted as grounds for separation. We really need to know more about the emotions associated with spousal cruelty and how they shift over time and space in other emotional regimes.
  • 25. Emotions history … and marital violence • Image of husbands as violently angry are not unusual. Also fearful wives. But we can do more than take them at face value. • What were such emotions meant to provoke in the reader or the viewer, and how do they relate to other factors like gender, class, and race? • Also these meanings interacted with the protagonists in domestic violence who faced restrictions in how far they could express or not express emotions where correction, cruelty, and violence in marriage and the family were concerned.
  • 26. Emotions history … and marital violence • Wives were expected to exercise stoicism – a form of emotional restraint - especially 19thc working- class women. Did genteel women have more or less scope to express distress? • Research indicates that men have usually been required to control anger and early modern husbands were advised to correct their wives without rage. I think there is evidence that the control of anger lies behind the frequent criticism of men accused of marital violence as mad. • Historians who work on marital cruelty from at least the 16th to 20th centuries have remarked on this, but thinking about it in terms of emotions is hardly done. Did descriptions modify as medical definitions of madness changed? Did it serve any purpose in court? What implications did it have for the men inside and outside the court? Did perpetrators display the ‘right’ kind of anger?
  • 27. Suggestion 4: the longue durée … and marital violence • There is enough work now on marital violence from the medieval to modern eras, across Europe and North America, to construct a sense of how the culture of violence against women, children, and in some cases men in the family, has changed over time and space. • One approach is to trace the role of marital violence in political rhetoric. Anna Clark has carried out insightful work into politically radical groups who used men’s behaviour as husbands to promote their political ideology and gain it respectability. • It would be worth this approach extending back in time. For example, The hardships of the English laws in relation to wives, 1735, took a recent case of cruelty and used it to show that wives were in a worse condition than slaves. • And, of course, as the slides show, there were a number of visual images of marital violence from satire, to cartoons, to illustrations of published cases in the press and periodicals.
  • 28. http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/05/29/facebook-admits-mistake-over- offensive-images-on-violence-against-women-after-campaign/ http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201305222040-0022771 closer historical scrutiny of misogynistic uses of wife-beating across long time periods would help us to understand the culture of marital violence
  • 29. Conclusion • In conclusion, my aim in this paper is to inspire more scholars to look again at domestic violence in all its forms. • We need a raft of scholarship which speaks to a new generation’s concerns and research agendas. I habitually dismiss the oft stated ambition of those who wish to find lessons in the past to solve present ills, since there is generally too much social, economic, political and cultural specificity that makes this an empty hope. • However, I make an exception for domestic violence. For we live in a society in which women are victimised. If you watch TV dramas, or read detective fiction, look at Facebook ads, you’ll know that it is typically women who are the imagined victims of crime. • Indeed, ironically, 21st century society’s obsession where the culture of violence is concerned is with serial killers. But, as most of you will know, the real threat to women is far closer to home. • According to Women’s Aid, on average two women are killed by their husbands or partners every week. Cited by Women’s Aid, 2007 http://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic_violence_topic.asp?section=0001000100 220036 • Let’s find out more?