Cruelty and Companionship is an account of the intimate but darker sides of marriage in Victorian and Edwardian England. Hammerton draws upon previously unpublished material from the records of the divorce court and magistrates' courts to challenge many popular views about changing family patterns.
His findings open a rare window onto the sexual politics of everyday life and the routine tensions which conditioned marriage in middle and working class families. Using contemporary evidence ranging from prescriptive texts and public debate to autobiography and fiction, Hammerton examines the intense public scrutiny which accompanied the routine exposure of marital breakdown, and charts a growing critique of men's behaviour in marriage which increasingly demanded regulation and reform. The critical discourse which resulted, ranging from paternalist to feminist, casts new light on the origins and trajectory of nineteenth century feminism, legal change and our understanding of the changing expression of masculinity.
`This book contains more insights into the realities of Victorian sexual politics than most recent work in the field …. an originality of analysis and a sureness of method which ought to be models of their kind. For students of masculinity, marriage and feminist discourse, this is an indispensable text.' - John Tosh, History Workshop Journal
`Admirable, with many features that immediately put it in a different class … fascinatingly subtle.' - Michael Mason, London Review of Books
`A stimulating, critical and cogent contribution to an important debate.' - Martin Pugh, History
`This fascinating account … is important background reading for all who rae concerned about marital violence today.' - Gwyneth Price, Every Woman
`This original, imaginative and important book brings together concerns about gender, the family, and wider currents in British social, cultural and even political experience in the second half of the nineteenth century.' - Leonore Davidoff, University of Essex