'This part-day sitting has been termed the "matinee".': Entertainment, spectacle and the shaming ritual of the Divorce Court.

Ranyard, Diane (2019) 'This part-day sitting has been termed the "matinee".': Entertainment, spectacle and the shaming ritual of the Divorce Court. In: Annual History Lab Postgraduate Conference: Entertainment, politics and culture: Perspectives on a historical relationship, 6th June 2018, Institute of Historical Research, London.

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

Abstract

The Divorce Court that served England and Wales was an open court, allowing members of the public to sit in the gallery and watch the spectacle of a trial unfold. This became such a popular form of entertainment, that by the 1920s a part-day sitting was referred to as a ‘matinee’. This public nature of the courtroom meant that private, intimate, and often humiliating details of sexual transgressions and marital life, that were discussed during the trials, were subjected to the public gaze and shaming ritual. This was within the courtroom itself, but also through publication of divorce reports in the national and local press that extended the reach of the shaming ritual, and provided salacious entertainment to a wider audience. The public nature of divorce was sanctioned by the state, and a deliberate attempt to deter husbands and wives from pursuing divorces, and also to uphold public morality by making examples of those who had committed adultery. State concerns about the entertainment that divorces provided, particularly the content of divorce reports in the press, reached a peak in 1926 when state censorship of divorce reporting was introduced.
This paper focuses on the spectacle of the courtroom as a public space, the publicity that divorce trials attracted as a form of entertainment, and also as a state sanctioned shaming ritual. It provides the most nuanced understanding to date of the impact that this state censorship had on the likelihood, extent, and type, of publicity divorcing spouses were exposed to in both the national and local press. Unique quantitative data will be used alongside examples of divorce reports, to argue that the impact of press censorship varied considerably across publications, with some formulating their own tactics to resist state censorship.

Keywords:Divorce, Entertainment, Spectacle, Shame, Courtroom, Newspapers
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V100 History by period
M Law > M111 English Law
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V323 Family History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V146 Modern History 1920-1949
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V140 Modern History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V320 Social History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V210 British History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V145 Modern History 1900-1919
M Law > M200 Law by Topic
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (Heritage)
ID Code:32367
Deposited On:20 Oct 2018 21:18

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