‘…this part-day sitting has been termed the “matinee”.’: Publicity, and the shaming ritual of the Divorce Court of England and Wales in the 1920s and 30s

Ranyard, Diane (2019) ‘…this part-day sitting has been termed the “matinee”.’: Publicity, and the shaming ritual of the Divorce Court of England and Wales in the 1920s and 30s. In: 20s30s Network: Workshops Series 'Publics@, 18th-19th May 2018, Bishopsgate Institute and King's College, London.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

The Divorce Court of England and Wales was an open court, allowing members of the public to sit in the gallery and listen to the trials. The Court was such a popular form of entertainment, that by the 1920s a part-day sitting was referred to as a ‘matinee’. This open nature of the Court meant that the private and often intimate details discussed in these trials were subjected to the public gaze, forming part of the shaming ritual of the Court. The cases that were heard also received extensive press exposure, with divorce reports being published in national and local newspapers; extending the reach of the shaming ritual to an even wider audience. Concerns surrounding the impact that the content of these reports were having on public morality, led to the introduction of the Judicial Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Act in 1926; which attempted to censor their content.

This paper introduces the courtroom as a public space, and then focuses on the publicity that divorce cases attracted in the 1920s and 30s. Providing the most nuanced understanding to date of the impact that the 1926 Act had on the likelihood of divorcing spouses receiving publicity in divorce reports. This paper provides unique quantitative data surrounding this publicity in the respectable, and unrespectable, national press. Which will be used alongside examples of divorce reports, to argue that the impact of press censorship varied considerably between publications.

Keywords:Divorce, 1920s, 1930s, Public gaze, Shame, Newspapers
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V323 Family History
M Law > M290 Law by topic not elsewhere classified
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V146 Modern History 1920-1949
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V214 English History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V213 Welsh History
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (Heritage)
ID Code:32147
Deposited On:20 Oct 2018 20:47

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