Between the late 18th and the 19th century in England, there was a strange custom called “wife-selling.” During these centuries, around 300 wives were sold, according to newspaper records. Here’s what it was all about…
For a long time during the 17th century and beyond, English men were selling their wives!
It was one of the ways to end unsatisfactory marriages.
Weird enough? The Mayor of Casterbridge novel by British author Thomas Hardy starts with a story of wife selling.
Actually, this tradition had no legal basis and could result in prosecution.
Nevertheless, some records from the 19th century reveal the ambivalent views of the authorities on this issue.
And there were cases of local Poor Law Commissioners forcing husbands to sell their wives, rather than having to maintain the family in workhouses.
Wife selling persisted in England in some form until the early 20th century.