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The Violent Abuse of Women in 17th and 18th Century Britain (Hardback)

True Crime P&S History Social History Women of History

By Geoffrey Pimm
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 216
ISBN: 9781526739544
Published: 31st March 2019

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The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are the gateway between the medieval world and the modern, centuries when the western societies moved from an age governed principally by religion and superstition to an age directed principally by reason and understanding. Although the worlds of science and philosophy took giant strides away from the medieval view of the world, attitudes to women did not change from those that had pertained for centuries. Girls were largely barred from education – only around 14% of women could read and write by 1700 - and the few educated women were not permitted to enter the professions.

As a result women, especially if single, were employed in menial jobs or were forced into a life of petty crime. Many survived by entering the ‘oldest profession in the world’.

The social turbulence of the first half of the seventeenth century afforded women new opportunities and new religious freedoms and women were attracted into the many new sects where they were afforded a voice in preaching and teaching. In a time of unprecedented and unbridled political discussion, many better educated women saw no reason why they should not enter the debate and began to voice their opinions alongside those of men, publishing their own books and pamphlets. These new and unprecedented liberties thus gained by women were perceived as a threat by the leaders of society, and thus arose an unlikely masculine alliance against the new feminine assertions, across all sections of society from Puritan preachers to court judges, from husbands to court rakes.

This reaction often found expression in the violent and brutal treatment of women who were seen to have stepped out of line, whether legally, socially or domestically. Often beaten and abused at home by husbands exercising their legal right, they were whipped, branded, exiled and burnt alive by the courts, from which their sex had no recourse to protection, justice or restitution. Many of the most brutal forms of punishment were reserved exclusively for women, and even where the same, they were more savagely applied than would be the case for similar crimes committed by men.

This work records the many kinds of violent physical and verbal abuse perpetrated against women in Britain and her colonies, both domestically and under the law, during two centuries when huge strides in human knowledge and civilisation were being made in every other sphere of human activity, but social and legal attitudes to women and their punishment remained firmly embedded in the medieval.

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About Geoffrey Pimm

Geoff is a retired Member of the Institute of Risk Management and the Business Continuity Institute, London, with working experience in twenty-three countries (Australia, Belgium, China, Dubai, Eire, England, Finland, France, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Kuwait; Luxembourg, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand) often in dangerous and/or challenging environments. Assignments have ranged from international financial organisations to national governments and security agencies.

For more than thirty years, Geoff was a UK qualified private pilot of both single and twin-engined aircraft, amassing hundreds of hours flying both modern and vintage aircraft, with thirty-three aircraft types in his log book, including several ex-RAF marques.

A life-long interest in the seventeenth century led to the amassing of a substantial library on the subject, including a number of antique books dating from the period. The inclusion of the complete eleven volume edition of Samuel Pepys’ diary by Latham and Matthews led to the creation of ‘The Dark Side of Samuel Pepys’.

Geoff is a member of the ‘Samuel Pepys Club’, an organisation founded in 1903 and with an eclectic membership drawn from all walks of life and backgrounds, but sharing a common and genuine interest in all matters Pepysian. Membership is limited to a maximum of 140 and includes the current holders of offices once held by Pepys or of establishments attended by him.

Now retired with his wife to the English countryside, Geoff was for several years a Parish Councillor and is now kept busy writing, singing in two male voice choirs, compering concerts, growing fruit and vegetables, driving his 1937 Morgan sports car and doting on his five grandchildren and four step grandchildren.

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