The Project: A History of Working-Class Marriage in Scotland, 1855-1976
In contemporary popular and official discourses there has been much written about the ‘traditional’ family. The dominant narrative is that the family, including the working-class family, was a stable unit organised around a core nuclear or extended unit from the middle of the nineteenth century until after the Second World War. Within this narrative, multiple family forms are seen as a recent development which can be attributed to the increase in divorce, remarriage, co-habitation and single parenthood since the late 1970s. Much of this contemporary discussion lacks an historical context and perspective and makes unrealistic assumptions about the need to recreate the ‘traditional’ family.
This project will engage with these discourses and will explore the history of working-class courtship, marriage and marriage breakdown in Scotland in the period from the civil registration of marriages in 1855 to the introduction of no-fault divorce legislation in 1976. The project aims to establish the structure and form of the working-class family over time; to identify the basis of selection of choice of marriage partner; to examine the nature of the relationship between husbands and wives and to establish the pattern, causes and consequences of marriage breakdown.
The project aims are:
- to offer an historical understanding of family structure.
- to explore religious, ethnic and intra-class differences in marriage.
- to examine the influence of social, cultural and economic variables in shaping the structure and experience of family and marriage within Scotland.
- to examine the reasons for marriage breakdown.
As well as contributing to academic debate, the project will work with practitioners including Scottish Women’s Aid and Learning and Teaching Scotland in order to contribute to the public debate on marriage and marriage breakdown and to inform educational practice. A database of household information will be created for use in schools as well as a website which will be of interest to family historians, genealogists and the Scottish Diaspora.
To read about our research activities to date, please visit our Project Activities page.