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One of the defining moments in the life of any person is marriage. For women in the eighteenth century this was a particularly important decision since separation and divorce were difficult to obtain and a wife’s legal agency was severely curtailed under Common Law. The motivations for marriage and the heavy influence of parents can be difficult to assess for those from the lower orders of society but some inferences can be made, especially when there is a social difference between the bride and groom. This form of social mobility was frowned upon but happened far more frequently than has been assumed.

This presentation forms part of a study on social mobility through marriage in London between 1743 and 1763. Marriages between 1743 and 1763 from three London parishes are investigated and the social status of the bride and groom assessed. The social distance between the bride and groom is calculated to determine any social mobility arising from the union. To identify social mobility, it is necessary to identify social status and this is where the difficulty lies. Records are inconsistent and not always complete so it can be difficult to find the clues needed. One clue is the occupation of the bride or groom or that of their parents. It is tempting to use occupations as a means of allocating a social status but there are many pitfalls. How and if they can be used in this way is discussed in this presentation in conjunction with the way in which occupations influenced the decision making of parents and prospective couples for major life decisions and, particularly, on the approach to marriage.

All welcome- this seminars is free to attend but registration is required.