2019 J.C. Beckett Memorial Lecture

Prof Diane Urquhart (University of Liverpool) will speak on:

‘Like diamonds, gambling, and picture-fancying, a luxury of the rich’? Ireland’s divorcing minority, 1701-1922

Listen to the Audio Track:


Thursday 6 June at 7pm, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Preceded by a drinks reception from 6.30 in PRONI Lobby)

Public Lecture – all welcome!


Lecture details

“Like diamonds, gambling and picture-fancying, a luxury of the rich’?: Ireland’s divorcing minority, 1701-1922’

The legalisation of divorce in the Republic of Ireland in 1996 was heralded as epoch making but this was the third incarnation of Irish divorce. Early Irish law allowed divorce to be attained by a parliamentary act in both the Irish parliament and Westminster.

The Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 moved divorce in England to a court-based process, however Ireland was excluded from the Act and this would endure until 1922. Parliamentary divorce continued to be maligned as complex, costly and gender biased but Irish citizens brought divorce bills forward with an increasing regularity from the late 19th century onward.

This lecture explores this changing social, religious and gender profile of Ireland’s divorcing minority to consider whether divorce remained ‘a luxury of the rich’.

Diane Urquhart is Professor in Modern Irish History at the Institute of Irish Studies of the University of Liverpool. A graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, she has published extensively on Irish women’s history including Women in Ulster Politics, 1890-1940 (2000) and The Ladies of Londonderry: women and political patronage (2007). Diane has just completed Irish Divorce: a history which is the first history of Irish divorce and will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.

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