Beating your wife is fine…if you’re a baron

Daily Mail (UK)
January 2014


The first ever English book of women’s rights, written in the 17th century, is set to go under the hammer.

The revolutionary read is the first book in English to compile laws on the rights of women and is expected to fetch over £3,000 when it reaches sale.

The book, entitled The Lawes Of Resolutions Of Women’s Rights: or The Lawes, Provision for Women, was compiled by Thomas Edgar and sold by John Grove in 1632.

The work features the laws and rights applicable to women including issues such as divorce, polygamy, marriage and rape.

It features such intriguing chapters as ‘What Persons Women May Not Marry’, ‘The Baron May Beat His Wife’ and ‘Of Wooing’.

In the radical text Thomas Edgar said: ‘The Theme, as the subject, is, The Lawes Resolutions of Womens Rights; which comprehend all our Lawes concerning Women, either Children in government or nurture of their Parents or Gardians, Mayds, Wives, and Widowes, and their goods, inheritances, and other estates.

‘Women have nothing to do in constituting Lawes, or consenting to them, in interpreting of Lawes, or in hearing them interpreted at lectures, leets or charges, and yet they stand strictly tyed to men’s establishments, little or nothing excused by ignorance.

‘Mee thinkes it were pitty and impiety any longer to hold from them such Customes, Lawes, and Statutes, as are in a maner proper, or principally belonging unto them.’

The idea of a pastor defending polygamy, and subjugating women in marriage seems bizarre now.

The book will be sold at Bonham’s Auctioneers on March 5th as part of the sale of rare and historic European law books from the collection of the Los Angeles County Law Library.

Head of Bonham’s Book Department in the UK, Matthew Haley, said: ‘Marriage in one form or another has, of course, been a central institution of human societies for thousands of years so it is not surprising to find so many books dedicated to laws about it.

‘Some of the preoccupations, however, do seem strange to modern eyes – the idea of a 17th century Lutheran pastor issuing a defence of polygamy is odd today but this was a live issue for Christian commentators during and after the Reformation.

‘Both Luther and Milton, for example, were defenders of the practice.’

(c) Associated Newspapers Limited (Daily Mail), January 2014