Radio 4 Interview: Making History

Published: 6 November 2009

Professor Eleanor Gordon contributed to BBC Radio 4's 'Making History' programme on the history of marriage and divorce in England and Scotland.

Professor Eleanor Gordon was interviewed for BBC Radio 4's 'Making History' programme on the different histories of marriage and divorce in England and Scotland. The show was broadcast on 3 November and is now available to 'listen again' through the BBC iPlayer.

A little more detail from the programme's website:

A listener contacted the programme with a tale about an ancestor who bought a wife in Scotland. This was in the early decades of the nineteenth century, not long before Thomas Hardy wrote this:

"For my part I don't see why men who have got wives and don't want 'em, shouldn't get rid of 'em as these gipsy fellows do their old horses," said the man in the tent. "Why shouldn't they put 'em up and sell 'em by auction to men who are in need of such articles? Hey? Why, begad, I'd sell mine this minute if anybody would buy her!" (The Mayor of Casterbridge)

Did wife-selling really go on or was it a term given to a mutual decision to end a marriage?

Making History consulted Professor Eleanor Gordon who studies gender and class relations in the [Department of] Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow. She explained that the notion of wife-selling is a difficult one to quantify...


Issued: 6th November 2009

First published: 6 November 2009