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The Walnut Tree : Women, Violence and the Law – a Hidden History



Hardback 320 pages, (1x8pp plates)
HarperCollins Publishers 29 February 2024
Morgan, Kate

1 in stock

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ISBN/SKU: 9780008559571 Categories/Genres: ,


‘Compulsively readable’ – Times Literary Supplement

‘An outstanding work’ – Philippa Gregory

‘A powerful narrative told with frankness and sensitivity’ Helen Fry, historian and author of Women In Intelligence

‘A woman, a dog and a walnut tree, the more they are beaten, the better they’ll be.’

So went the proverb quoted by a prominent MP in the Houses of Parliament in 1853. His words – intended ironically in a debate about a rise in attacks on women – summed up the prevailing attitude of the day, in which violence against women was waved away as a part and parcel of modern living – a chilling seam of misogyny that had polluted both parliament and the law. But were things about to change?

In this vivid and essential work of historical non-fiction, Kate Morgan explores the legal campaigns, test cases and individual injustices of the Victorian and Edwardian eras which fundamentally re-shaped the status of women under British law. These are seen through the untold stories of women whose cases became cornerstones of our modern legal system and shine a light on the historical inequalities of the law.

We hear of the uniquely abusive marriage which culminated in the dramatic story of the ‘Clitheroe wife abduction’; of the domestic tragedies which changed the law on domestic violence; the controversies surrounding the Contagious Diseases Act and the women who campaigned to abolish it; and the real courtroom stories behind notorious murder cases such as the ‘Camden Town Murder’.

Exploring the 19th- and early 20th Century legal history that influenced the modern-day stances on issues such as domestic abuse, sexual violence and divorce, The Walnut Treelifts the lid on the shocking history of women under British law – and what it means for women today.


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