Adultery in post-war England

Langhamer, Claire (2006) Adultery in post-war England. History Workshop Journal, 62 (1). pp. 86-115. ISSN 1363-3554

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Recent histories of twentieth-century heterosexual behaviour have tended to place the practices of young people centre-stage in accounts of social change. Trends in premarital intercourse have been presented as evidence of changing sexual mores: the varied experiences of married people, beyond the realm of fertility, have less often been interrogated. Yet in the years after the Second World War, extended access to fault-based divorce, a state-sponsored determination to remake family life and an increasing emphasis upon the relational aspects of marriage ensured that marital infidelity was prominent in public discussions of sexual and emotional life. This article therefore investigates illegitimate sexual and emotional intimacies involving married rather than single heterosexuals, unpacking the social meanings and significance of adultery in post-war England. It explains why attitudes towards adultery hardened across the period, even as the practice became apparently more common, by exploring the growing centrality of love and sex to discursive constructions of marriage. In so doing this article offers an account which destabilizes a ‘golden age’ characterization of post-war marriage and challenges linear models of sexual and emotional change.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA020 England
D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA020 England > DA129 By period > DA300 Modern, 1485- > DA566 20th century
Depositing User: Claire Langhamer
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:03
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2019 02:48

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