Top 10 Shocking Historical Beliefs and Practices

It is amazing how much the human perspective has changed in the last fifty years. Before the expansion of modern medicine and psychiatric care, people were exposed to brutal procedures and morbid beliefs. In the last 500 years, many strange political ideals have been adopted all over the world.

Government officials have enacted shocking policies and medical procedures. We can now look back upon some of these moments and wonder what exactly our ancestors were thinking? Many of these ideas were developed in a time when racial and female segregation was a problem, and the accepted social behavior was different from what we experience today. This article will be examining ten shocking beliefs and diagnosis that were developed during modern history.

Wife Selling

Contemporary Wife Selling Print Georgian Scrapbook 1949

During medieval times, women were completely subordinated to their husbands. After marriage, the husband and wife became one legal entity, a legal status known as coverture. During this time in history, married women could not own property in their own right, and were, indeed, themselves the property of their husbands. It is unclear when the ritualized custom of selling a wife by public auction first began, but written records indicate it was some time towards the end of the 17th century. In most reports, the sale was announced in advance, perhaps by advertisement in a local newspaper.

It usually took the form of an auction, often at a local market, to which the wife would be led by a halter (usually a rope) looped around her neck, arm or waist. The woman was then auctioned off to the highest bidder and would join her new husband after the sale was complete. Wife selling was a regular occurrence during the 18th and 19th centuries, and it acted as a way for a man to end an unsatisfactory marriage.

In most cases, a public divorce was not an option for common people. In 1690, a law was enforced that required a couple to submit an application to parliament for a divorce certificate. This was an expensive and time consuming process. The custom of wife selling had no basis in English law and often resulted in prosecution, particularly from the mid-19th century onwards. However, the attitude of the authorities was passive. It should be noted that some 19th century wives objected to their sale, but records of 18th century women resisting are non-existent.

In some cases, the wife arranged for her own sale, and even provided the money to buy her way out of the marriage. Wife selling persisted in some form until the early 20th century. In 1913, a woman claimed in a Leeds police court that she had been sold to one of her husband’s workmates for £1. This is one of the last reported cases of a wife sale in England. Today, you can visit a number of websites and get an online divorce.

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