An oral history of domestic abuse in Scotland 1945-1992

  • Anni Donaldson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis investigates domestic abuse in the changing socio-economic and political context of post-war Scotland. Assault on wives was a common yet under-reported crime and contemporary surveys failed to capture its true extent. Knowledge about domestic abuse comes mainly from women's aid sources dating from the 1970s. As most abused women did not contact WA services, this thesis gives voice to women who did not seek outside help over the longer post-war period and provides new insights into their reasons for this.;Twenty-six oral history narratives describing domestic abuse and criminal justice and social welfare agency responses between circa 1945 and 1992 were analysed using a newly-designed feminist theoretical framework. Continuity and change are evident in women's experiences and in agency responses. Extensive life histories reveal the resilience of patriarchal discourses and practices throughout the period with domestic abuse retaining its longstanding function of reinforcing traditional gender roles. By the 1980s, there is evidence of a shift towards public patriarchy with new legislation advancing women's social equality, improved career prospects and higher earnings. However, there is less evidence of a parallel shift away from private patriarchy as deeper, constitutive gender rules remained resistant to change. In the new socio-economic environment of the 1980s, domestic abuse retained its core function whilst evolving into new non-violent, coercive forms which extended control into women's public lives. Criminal justice and social welfare agencies remained working patriarchies, often unwilling to intervene in marital relations and hostile to abused women.;This thesis highlights the close interplay of personal and contextual factors influencing women's experiences and reporting decisions and shows that domestic abuse contributed to a patriarchal equilibrium in Scotland into the 1990s. This thesis thus makes a distinctive contribution to our understanding of the reasons for the persistence and adaptability of domestic abuse in late-twentieth-century Scotland.
Date of Award31 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorBernard Harris (Supervisor) & Angela Bartie (Supervisor)

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