Thomas E. Buckley, S.J.
Published 2001. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-5380-1.
From the end of the Revolution until 1851, the Virginia legislature granted most divorces in the state. It granted divorces rarely, however, turning down two-thirds of those who petitioned for them. Men and women who sought release from unhappy marriages faced a harsh legal system buttressed by the political, religious, and communal cultures of southern life. Through the lens of this hostile environment, Thomas Buckley explores with sympathy the lives and legal struggles of those who challenged it.
Based on research in almost 500 divorce files, The Great Catastrophe of My Life involves a wide cross-section of Virginians. Their stories expose southern attitudes and practices involving a spectrum of issues from marriage and family life to gender relations, interracial sex, adultery, desertion, and domestic violence. Although the oppressive legal regime these husbands and wives battled has passed away, the emotions behind their efforts to dissolve the bonds of marriage still resonate strongly.
“Fascinating firsthand accounts of people’s lives, cutting across boundaries of gender, race, and class. . . . This is the book for those interested in the religious, social, and legal history of antebellum Virginia. Here is a clear explanation of legislative divorce in the Commonwealth, woven together with a description of religious culture, peppered with well-told stories about ordinary Virginians, their families, and their communities.”
– Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A rare glimpse behind the curtain of Victorian propriety. . . . Admirable. . . . A model monograph. It ably frames and elucidates its subject [and] pushes its argument with refreshing modesty.”
– Journal of Social History
“Buckley produces one of the most detailed views to date of antebellum southern families under stress.”
– American Historical Review
“This is a book that both fills an important gap in our historical knowledge and provides evocative tales of human heartbreak that still resonate.”
– William and Mary Quarterly
“Buckley has written a book in which there is something for almost everyone. Those interested in gender, religion, social structures and relationships, cultural values, racial issues, and political and economic considerations during the period from the American Revolution to the Civil War will find this book helpful. . . . Buckley has certainly illustrated the trauma associated with divorce as well as provided useful data and perspectives that ought to stimulate further contemplation and understanding of southern societies.”
“Expose[s] southern attitudes and practices involving a spectrum of issues from marriage and family life to gender relations, interracial sex, adultery, desertion, and domestic violence.”
– American Catholic Studies Newsletter
The Legalist Reformation (Mar 30, 2001)
William E. Nelson. Published March 2001. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-2591-4. Based on a detailed examination of New York case law, this pathbreaking book shows how law, politics, and ideology in the state changed in tandem between 1920 and 1980. Early twentieth-century New York was the scene of intense struggle between white, Anglo-Saxon, …
The Republic According to John Marshall Harlan (Sep 13, 1999)
Linda Przybyszewski. Published September 1999. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-4789-3. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911) is best known for condemning racial segregation in his dissent from Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, when he declared, “Our Constitution is color-blind.” But in other judicial decisions–as well as in some …
Law, Land, and Family: Aristocratic Inheritance in England, 1300 to 1800 (Feb 16, 1997)
Eileen Spring. Published February 1997. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-4642-1. Eileen Spring presents a fresh interpretation of the history of inheritance among the English gentry and aristocracy. In a work that recasts both the history of real property law and the history of the family, she finds that one of the principal and determinative …
Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story: Statesman of the Old Republic (Aug 16, 1986)
R. Kent Newmyer. Published August 1986. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-4164-8. The primary founder and guiding spirit of the Harvard Law School and the most prolific publicist of the nineteenth century, Story served as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1811 to 1845. His attitudes and goals as lawyer, politician, judge, and legal educator …
Dispute and Conflict Resolution in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, 1725-1825 (Sep 19, 1982)
William E. Nelson. Published 1982. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-9736-2. Nelson identifies three principal institutions involved in conflict resolution: the twon meeting, the church congregation, and the courts of law. He subsequently determines the type of cases over which each institution had jurisdiction and studies the procedures by which …