Bigamy and cohabitation

Ginger S. Frost

in Living In Sin

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780719077364
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700723 | DOI:
Bigamy and cohabitation

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This chapter is based on 304 bigamy cases from between 1760 and 1914, most of which were from between 1830 and 1900, from newspapers and law reports. In particular, it deals with overall patterns of behaviour, using the trials as a window into attitudes towards marriage, cohabitation and the law. All were convinced that happy bigamous marriages were preferable to miserable, legal ones. The majority of bigamous families were from the working class. Bigamies were strong evidence of people's attachment to marriage. Some family members actively supported bigamous unions, depending, again, on circumstances. Bigamy cases prove that many people had their own definitions of marriage and divorce until at least the twentieth century. Nevertheless, Victorian bigamists combined a challenge to the marriage laws with a desire for the ritual. The men and women involved in bigamous marriages were not invariably ruined. Judges always gave long sentences to serial bigamists.

Keywords: bigamy; bigamous marriages; cohabitation; marriage law; divorce; Victorian bigamists; serial bigamists

Chapter.  11579 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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