"For Better or Worse: Divorce and Annulment Lawsuits in Colonial Mexico (1544-1799)

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Date

2013

Authors

Bird, Jonathan Bartholomew

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Sigal, Pete

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Abstract

"For Better or Worse: Divorce and Annulment Lawsuits in Colonial Mexico (1544-1799)" uses petitions for divorce and annulment to explore how husbands and wives defined and contested their marital roles and manipulated legal procedure. Marital conflict provides an intimate window into the daily lives of colonial Mexicans, and the discourses developed in the course of divorce and annulment litigation show us what lawyers, litigants and judges understood to be appropriate behavior for husbands and wives. This dissertation maintains that wives often sued for divorce or annulment not as an end in itself, but rather as a means to quickly escape domestic violence by getting the authorities to place them in enclosure, away from abusive husbands. Many wives used a divorce or annulment lawsuit just to get placed in enclosure, without making a good faith effort to take the litigation to its final conclusion. "For Better or For Worse" also argues concepts of masculinity, rather than notions of honor, played a strong role in the ways that husbands negotiated their presence in divorce and annulment suits. This work thus suggests a new way to interpret the problem of marital conflict in Mexico, showing how wives ably manipulated procedural law to escape abuse and how men attempted to defend their masculine identities and their gendered roles as husbands in the course of divorce and annulment lawsuits.

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Bird, Jonathan Bartholomew (2013). "For Better or Worse: Divorce and Annulment Lawsuits in Colonial Mexico (1544-1799). Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/7094.

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