I rest your loving obedient wife: marital relationships in Scotland 1650-1850

Barclay, Katie E (2008) I rest your loving obedient wife: marital relationships in Scotland 1650-1850. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.
Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2627879


In 1698 Christian Kilpatrick concluded a letter to her husband, John Clerk, with the words ‘I rest your loving obedient wife’. These words, or a variation on them, were a common subscript for wives during the seventeenth century. The combination of the words loving and obedient could be used through habit or consciously for effect, yet, in most cases, without any sense of incongruity. The relationship between these terms is at the heart of my thesis. This work explores the nature of the marital relationship during the period 1650 to 1850. It investigates how power was negotiated between couples during a period when marriage was expected to be patriarchal but also to provide happiness and fulfilment for both husband and wife. Throughout, it attempts to identify if and what change occurred over the period.

Judith Bennett challenged historians in 1989, and reiterated her call in 2006, to place patriarchy at the centre of women’s history. The thesis takes up that challenge. Through an exploration of power within marital relationships, this thesis highlights how patriarchy operated to confine and restrict women’s social power. It demonstrates that patriarchy was a system that was lived in. Women and men’s understanding of the world and their own identities were shaped by cultural discourses that underpinned the patriarchal system. This thesis reveals that all the operations of married life from love to managing the household to violence were shaped by patriarchal discourses. These discourses were not static but constantly renegotiated through the actions and ideas of individuals, yet throughout the period, the patriarchal system was not fundamentally undermined, but reshaped to meet these challenges. The thesis investigates the operation of this process.

It is important to recognise that, as patriarchy was a lived system, it allowed a wide range of behaviours and that people’s response to patriarchy should not only be seen in terms of compliance or resistance. Patriarchy was not only conceived of in terms of male control over women, but in every interaction between the sexes regardless of its motivations. It is through recognising the pervasive nature of patriarchy that historians will no longer contrast, for example, obedience and love, but realise that both obedience and love were part of the system. This interpretation does not undermine other historians’ work in this field, but provides greater explanatory power for patriarchy’s operation and survival.

Scottish couples used changing patriarchal discourses in a myriad of ways to shape and explain their experiences. They cooperated, compromised and established power relationships that did not always conform to the ideal, but allowed their marriages to function well and brought them happiness. Not all couples could agree on the balance of power within their relationship leading to arguments and even violence. Yet, while marriages could take a variety of forms, the negotiation of power between couples used a patriarchal script, restricting the language couples used, their expectations and desires and the eventual compromise reached.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: marriage, Scotland, history, patriarchy, power systems, love, marital economy, popular culture, correspondence
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Economics
Supervisor's Name: Gordon, Prof Eleanor and Abrams, Prof Lynn
Date of Award: 26 June 2008
Depositing User: Mrs Katie E Barclay
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-204
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 May 2008
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2013 07:42
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/204

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