Carol McKinven

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Supervisor: Professor Rab Houston

Thesis title: ‘Quite at liberty to marry another’: bigamy in nineteenth century Scotland
Supervisor: Professor Rab Houston


My research explores bigamy in Scotland between 1837 and 1901. Current discourses on nineteenth century bigamy have shied away from including Scotland due to its separate legal system and distinctive marriage arrangements. The subject has remained unexplored outside limited discussion in the context of either marital failure or irregular marriage. This research aims to fill the historiographical gap, building on my Masters investigation of female bigamy prosecutions in the same period, which found that prosecutions were rare but argued that for working class urban Scottish women, contracting a bigamous marriage was less so. However, most did not intend to undermine the law but were simply indifferent to its requirements.

My PhD research will broaden and deepen the scope of the investigation into bigamy in nineteenth century Scotland, comparing motivation and punishment between genders, examining the legal and socio-economic context and considering the extent to which the local community and wider society tolerated bigamous marriages.