The candidate has structured and organised their information using an appropriate essay format:
relevant, structured and logically sequenced paragraphs
The candidate has provided an argument.
IE, the candidate has stated a view and supported it with relevant and accurate evidence (probably most obvious in the evaluative part of their essay).
The candidate has structured and organised their information using an appropriate and effective essay format:
relevant, structured and logically sequenced paragraphs
The candidate has provided a convincing argument.
IE, the candidate has a clearly articulated view and has supported it with sound reasoning and relevant, accurate, and significant evidence (probably most obvious in the evaluative part of their essay).
Topic One: England 1558 – 1667
Essay question (a)
Explain the factors that men from different social classes considered when deciding to marry in early modern England.
Evaluate the consequences of marriage for women.
The candidate’s response to the first part of the essay question could include:
The stability of society was enshrined in the ideas about marriage and the sanctity of family. A man maintaining a sexual relationship with a woman outside of marriage was unacceptable to respectable elements of society. Types of acceptable marriage were: marriage in church, handfasting and betrothalde futuro
Young men were subject to the head of the house, and had obligations to their families that lasted beyond when they physically left home or were no longer economically dependent. In particular, this would involve heeding advice given on who and when they should marry
The legal position of women was similar to that of children. They were meant to be either in the care or protection of their father, brother or husband. The doctrine of coverture stated that 'Man and wife were one person, and that person was the husband’. As a feme covert, a married woman became at one in law with her husband – he now became responsible for her. A boy was therefore only able to legally consent to marriage at 14, compared with 12 for a girl
Marriage was the key medium of social advancement and could well have a considerable effect on personal wealth and property because the woman traditionally brought a jointure or dowry into the marriage. Sons of nobility often married daughters of the wealthy so that a double advantage could occur — impoverished noble families might in time be relieved of debt and the rich family might receive social elevation
Love and sexual attraction alone were not popularly regarded as sufficient reason for marriage. The age, wealth, social connections and religion of the marriage partner were considered to be more important factors in the decision. Love was expected to grow after marriage
Heads of families frequently interfered to prevent unsuitable matches. The most used penalty for disobedience in this important area was disinheritance. Incompatibility in families could bring public humiliation and lawsuits. Examples include Bess of Hardwick and Anne Clifford
Marriagewas a life-changing decision that would initiate a family unit providing for the couple’s economic, sexual and companionship needs but also permit the begetting of heirs to inherit the family property. Therefore marriage was generally delayed, especially for the governed class, until a couple had whatever was required to establish and maintain an independent nuclear family
The higher the social level, the greater the parental involvement in choosing marriage partners, though the willing consent of the future husband and wife was generally sought. Popular writing upheld the value of young people in the governed class gaining the consent of their parents to a marriage:
marrying without parental / family consent could result in a withdrawal of dowry or inheritance
Artisans, Labourers, the Poor:
married earlier than yeomen and husbandmen
greatest freedom of choice
greater opportunities for courtship
least obligation to seek parental advice or consent
parish officials tried to prevent marriages of homeless couples.
For the husband, fatherhood would confirm his headship of an independent family unit, and highlight that he had the potential to perpetuate the family name and pass on an inheritance. This status entitled a governing class man to the vote in many boroughs
Celibacy in this period was still a viable alternative. However, the family was still the natural place where unmarried men resided, contributing financially and functionally to the unit.
The candidate’s response to the second part of the essay question could include:
Marriage was a significant public occasion and spectacle and the frequent cause of much subsequent financial distress for families. The planning and execution of a “suitable match” was considered the high point of a woman’s life among the peerage and gentry
Marriage was often defined as the start of a woman’s life, or at least the watershed to which all other prior events had led. A married younger sister would take precedence in the family over an older spinster. In church, married women sat separately and even sometimes dressed or wore their hair differently
The governing class tended to marry girls while young because they had inherited wealth and planned to secure the next generation of family heirs. Whereas the governed class had to wait until they had amassed or received the means to begin a new family unit (economic conditions and natural disasters could affect this). Periods when late marriage was common tended to reduce the numbers of children born and raise the proportion of unmarried adults
Childbirth was a risky consequence of marriage, but the wife’s place was thereby elevated in the family – especially as a mother of a son. Women in the governed class often left service to nurture their children. The governing class generally could afford wet-nurses and servants to care for the children so that the wife could return to reproducing further heirs
Breakdown in marriage led to some annulments for the governing class, but more often irregular separations. In England innocent parties (usually the woman) were not allowed by law to remarry
The wife had few rights over her body in relation to her husband. Wife beating was legal, although society generally disapproved of it. Prosecution for marital rape was legally impossible
The wife’s earnings belonged to her husband and she could neither sue nor be sued in a civil action. Any dowry or personal property she inherited became her husband’s unless there were special provisions in the will. A married woman had the right to be maintained by her husband during his lifetime. If she outlived him she was entitled to a jointure – one-third of his estate if she had children, one half if she did not
Contemporary examples of the practice of courtship and marriage would generally be expected from candidates gaining Achievement with Excellence (eg Sir Lucius Carey, Mary Boyle, Peg Oxinden, Ralph Josselin, Henry Newcombe, Roger Lowe, or Alice Smith).