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Divorce and separations in eighteenth-century France: An outline for a social history of law

Authors
Journal
The History of the Family
1081-602X
Publisher
Informa UK (Taylor & Francis)
Publication Date
Volume
2
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/s1081-602x(97)90012-9
Disciplines
  • Law

Abstract

Abstract Marriage breakdown is now common in western society, but it is hardly a new phenomenon. The article investigates the mechanisms and juridical representations of divorce and separation in eighteenth-century France, and argues that if in that century divorce was connected to the secularization of the state, during the 1789 Revolution it gained a new autonomy because of the efforts to add a new article at the universal declaration of human rights. The images of divorce still current today suggest an eighteenth-century past when marriage dissolution was conceived of as a phenomenon involving a more inclusive context of relations and not just as an isolated element of the social reality. Then, discussion of marriage as well as of divorce belonged to a larger domain of family relations and social attitudes, as is evident in the civic representations of these phenomena.

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