Makar emellan : Äktenskaplig oenighet och våld på kyrkliga och politiska arenor, 1810-1880

Sammanfattning: This dissertation examines the discussion that took place during the 19th century surrounding men’s violence against their wives, as well as the contemporary norms and ideas that shaped people’s understanding of, and ability to deal with the problem. The overall objective is to examine how cultural conceptions of gender, class, violence and power (relationships) were created and expressed during the period 1810–1880. I approach this objective through an examination of how men’s violence against their wives was reported and treated as marital conflict, both within local religious arenas (such as church councils and cathedral chapters) and in the Riksdag of the Estates. With a longer diachronic analysis of the discussions in the Riksdag of the Estates con-cerning propositions for changes in the law regarding marital conflict and divorce during the period 1828–1860, the dissertation shows that men’s violence against their wives as well as other forms of male misuse of power were neither made invisible, privatised nor marginalised in the public discussion in Sweden, which previous research has maintained. In contrast to previous research, the dissertation also shows that political attention to wife-beating and the reform work that took place in 19th century Sweden cannot be entirely characterised as a secularised project. The attention politicians directed towards the problem took place in a re-ligious context where the clergy, in practice, through their experience of dealing with wife-beating and other unsatisfactory conditions in marital relations, took the initiative and were instigators in the political process that after the middle of the century brought changes in the law on marital conflict and divorce. The dissertation’s investigations of how marital conflict and violence were dealt with by church councils and cathedral chapters also show how those involved talked about marital conflict based on competing ideas of gender, class, violence and marriage. The dissertation supports previous research that has demonstrated how men’s violence against their wives tended to be made invisible when it was interpreted and dealt with as marital conflict within the religious arenas. However, the results of the dissertation open up for other interpreta-tional perspectives regarding how violence was made invisible in the past, demonstrating that the prevailing understanding of violence that existed through concepts such as conflict and maltreatment may rather have resulted in an exposition of violence, which also included other forms of marital violence and oppression that were not physical. With a starting point in a marital ideology that perceived marriage as being in principle life-long, the intention of the church’s warnings during conflicts was to mediate, even in cases that included men’s vio-lence against their wives. The principal significance was not to make it easier for wives to remove themselves from their husbands’ violence, but to preserve the sanctity of marriage. Despite this, the study of praxis during the period shows that the church councils in particu-lar could assume more flexible and pragmatic attitudes towards the law. In their attempts to find solutions to their congregation’s unsatisfactory state of marital problems, they could even pursue actions that conflicted with legal provisions.