Courting by Alecia Simmonds | Black Inc.

Courting: An Intimate History of Love and the Law

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About the author

Alecia Simmonds

Dr Alecia Simmonds is a senior lecturer in law at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her first book, Wild Man, won the 2016 Davitt Prize for best nonfiction crime writing. She has been the recipient of prestigious academic grants and …

More about Alecia Simmonds

Praise for Courting

'A beautifully written account of the trials and tribulations of romantic love across the centuries. Delightful and engrossing, Courting is filled with stories of infatuation, deception and heartbreak, as well as the legal, moral and gendered regulation of betrothal and marriage. This is history richly told.' —Anna Clark, author of Making Australian History

‘From the first page-turning story of jilted Beatrice, a barmaid, and Frederick, a “spinner of yarns smelling of horses and flashing his winnings”, readers are in for a glorious romp. Engaging stories of dashing romance, poetic love and tragic heartbreak, brilliantly sliced through by class, race and gender, swirl across the pages. Love on trial. A reader’s delight.’ —Constance Backhouse, Professor of Law, University of Ottawa, author of Petticoats and Prejudice: Women and Law in Nineteenth-Century Canada and Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada

‘Alecia Simmonds’ Courting: An Intimate History of Love and the Law is a compulsively readable account of romantic love as reflected in Australian legal records from 1788 to 1939. What we find in this deeply researched and elegantly written work is a familiar emotion made oddly strange as Simmonds traces the shift from a version of love bound up in communal and legal standards to love in its modern form, experienced as a private emotion … Original and compelling, Courting suggests that romantic love, no matter how private and individualised it may feel today, is always shaped by historical and legal contexts. A delight to read, this is an exemplary work that demonstrates the value of law in studying the history of emotions.’ —Kathryn D. Temple, Georgetown University, author of Scandal Nation: Law and Authorship in Britain, 1750–1832

‘Between 1806 and the 1970s, nearly a thousand jilted lovers in Australia sued for the breach of promise of marriage. They sought damages for money wasted on trousseaux, for the cost of raising children, and for heartache. In telling these stories, this brilliant book shows how the rules of love interacted with the law, until the action was finally abolished in 1976. Was it simply an example of the law's assumption of the dependence of women, patriarchy in legal form? Or did women use the action to recover the value of their unrecognised work, asserting feminist principles in this most unlikely way? History is rarely written so engagingly, as we are drawn from one form of love to another.’ —Bruce Kercher, Emeritus Professor, Macquarie University, author of Unruly Child: A History of Law in Australia

‘Original and provocative, witty and wise, Alecia Simmonds’ Courting is an example of the new Australian history at its finest. Diving deep into legal records, this illuminating book explores the changing relationships between men and women, love and law, as enacted in courtship and courtrooms over two centuries … Women are the key actors in these entangled stories as they seek legal avenues for redress and compensation for material harm and lacerated feelings. In a powerful conclusion, Simmonds ponders on what has been lost in legal reform and the ambiguities of feminist progress.’ —Marilyn Lake

‘Learn the details of where couples met, how they dated and what this means for the ethics of love today’ —Domain Review

‘Simmonds is mistress of the well-turned phrase and the arresting observation. She is also a fine historian.’ —Marian Quartly, Inside Story

‘This book is an important contribution to our understanding of how society has evolved since 1788. Carefully written, intelligently constructed and offering profound insights, it is a rich set of words that invite contemplation.’ —Norrie Sanders, Queensland Reviewers Collective

‘Alecia Simmonds’s Courting: An intimate history of love and the law will transform your understanding of both love and law.’ —Penny Russell, Australian Book Review ‘Books of the Year 2023’

‘Simmonds brings each litigant and court case to life … I can’t remember the last time I read a book about love or, indeed, Australian history that was this fulfilling, not only as a work of historiography but also as a prompt for reflecting on the present.’ —Maria Takolander, The Saturday Paper

‘Courting disinters the intimate lives of people who were once us ... [Simmond’s] research is breathtaking’ —Helen Elliot, The Saturday Age

‘Alecia Simmonds has plundered Australian court records from the early 19th century, and found a fascinating line- up of people who abandoned themselves to love, only to be left high and dry. Simmonds’ intelligent discussion of the shifting social mores is illuminating.’ —Robyn Douglass, Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin