Events, Seminars

30th June: ‘Living as Man and Wife’: Women and Cohabitation in Scotland, 1560-1750

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 4pm (UK)

Dr Rebecca Mason, University of Glasgow

Cohabitation, in very broad terms, can be defined as an arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage. Throughout history, Scottish couples cohabited, rather than married, for a variety of reasons, often due to existing impediments to marriage or lack of resources to fund the costs of a wedding ceremony. Today, many couples in Scotland choose to cohabit to test their compatibility before they commit to marriage. For others, the decision to cohabit is a lifelong choice as the social capital of marriage has waned to a simple representation of commitment. As more and more people opt out of marriage in favour of cohabitation, how has the Scottish legal system grappled with the regulation of such private relationships? This presentation shows that the legal regulation of cohabitation in Scotland is, in fact, a historical issue dating back to the reform of marriage law in the early modern period. It investigates the changing effects of cohabitation on the property rights of Scottish women throughout history, with particular focus on the early modern context. In providing this crucial background, it situates ongoing debates surrounding the reform of cohabitation law in Scotland in historical perspective, and explains why this debate presents as a feminist issue.

Detail from the BEGGARS Delight EBBA 34937


Dr Rebecca Mason is an Economic and Social Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow based in the School of Law at the University of Glasgow. She is a historian of gender, economy and the law in early modern Scotland. Her ESRC project engages with current debates surrounding women’s property rights during the ongoing reform of succession and cohabitation law in Scotland.

Register for your place on the Zoom webinar: 

We do have a limit of 100 attendees, but you can also view the livestream of the seminar on the Women’s History Network Facebook page.

Find details of future seminars in the Spring-Summer series here

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