[LMB] OT: Social structures, was Build your own Emperor

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Fri Sep 29 07:27:58 BST 2017


From: Eric Oppen <ravenclaweric at gmail.com>

Wives being held not-responsible for crimes they'd committed, with the
punishment falling on the husband, was a rule in early-Victorian Britain.
It comes up toward the end of _Oliver Twist,_ when ex-Beadle Bumble is told
that he is responsible for his wife's intrigues against the saintly little
Oliver, even though he knew nothing of them.

His response is the immortal:  "If the law believes that, the law is a
ass---a idiot!  If the law believes that, the law is a bachelor, and I wish
it to gain knowledge by experience---by experience, sir!"  (Or words to
that general effect; I'm still recovering from surgery and don't have the
book open in front of me.)

Gwynne: Under Saxon law, stolen property found in the house meant that the
husband was the thief, unless the property was in particular places (certain food
storage bins and cupboards) to which the wife held the keys. We also still see a
touch of that mindset even today in our legal system - if a couple are convicted of
a crime, often the male will get a longer sentence than the female. Some
assumptions are buried deep.


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