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Women, consumption and coverture in England, c. 1760-1860

Finn, M; (1996) Women, consumption and coverture in England, c. 1760-1860. Historical Journal , 39 (3) 703 - 722. 10.1017/S0018246X0002450X. Green open access

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Abstract

Historians concerned to demonstrate women's increasing relegation to a private, domestic sphere in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have emphasized the extent to which married women's opportunities were restricted by the common law practice of coverture, which deprived wives of the ability to enter into economic contracts in their own right. Yet social and cultural historians have argued that women played an essential role as purchasers in promoting the consumer revolution of these decades. This article explores the devices used by married women consumers to evade the strictures of coverture. Focusing on three overlapping practices – wives' willingness and ability to pledge their husbands' credit to purchase a wide range of ‘necessary’ goods, their use of this tactic to secure a degree of independence from unsuccessful marriages, and their active participation in the deliberations of a variety of small claims courts – it argues that the purchase of coverture in the sphere of consumption was partial and contested, rather than monolithic.

Type: Article
Title: Women, consumption and coverture in England, c. 1760-1860
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S0018246X0002450X
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X0002450X
Language: English
Additional information: © 1996 Cambridge University Press
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1398776
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