The Walnut Tree

The Walnut Tree: Women, Violence and the Law – a Hidden History

British History, 19th Century Britain
Hardback Published on: 29/02/2024
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Bookseller Reviews

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The Walnut Tree
This might just be the best piece of history writing I've ever read!
I loved this book and learned so much! It is fascinating and so brilliantly set out - with each chapter opening with a richly descriptive scene detailing a... READ MORE
Katie in Darlington
The Walnut Tree
A must read!
Kate Morgan follows up from her brilliant history of homocide ("Murder: The Biography") with another fascinating and thoroughly researched piece of non-fic... READ MORE
Julie, Waterstones Silverburn
The Walnut Tree
Fascinating, but also heartbreaking
I rated this 4.5 stars. Using a case study structure, we follow different women that helped change English laws, all of which usually fall under the radar.... READ MORE
The Walnut Tree
This is a brilliant and fascinating book, that I found throughly engaging. Morgan introduced each chapter with a vivid presentation of a legal case that wa... READ MORE


A devastating work of non-fiction that reveals a hidden history of women, violence and the law.

A woman, a dog and a walnut tree, the more they are beaten, the better they’ll be.

So went the proverb quoted by a prominent MP in the Houses of Parliament in 1853. His words – intended ironically in a debate about a rise in attacks on women – summed up the prevailing attitude of the day, in which violence against women was waved away as a part and parcel of modern living – a chilling seam of misogyny that had polluted both parliament and the law. But were things about to change?

In this vivid and essential work of historical non-fiction, Kate Morgan explores the legal campaigns, test cases and individual injustices of the Victorian and Edwardian eras which fundamentally re-shaped the status of women under British law. These are seen through the untold stories of women whose cases became cornerstones of our modern legal system and shine a light on the historical inequalities of the law.

We hear of the uniquely abusive marriage which culminated in the dramatic story of the ‘Clitheroe wife abduction’; of the domestic tragedies which changed the law on domestic violence; the controversies surrounding the Contagious Diseases Act and the women who campaigned to abolish it; and the real courtroom stories behind notorious murder cases such as the ‘Camden Town Murder’.

Exploring the 19th- and early 20th Century legal history that influenced the modern-day stances on issues such as domestic abuse, sexual violence and divorce, The Walnut Tree lifts the lid on the shocking history of women under British law – and what it means for women today.

  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • ISBN: 9780008559571
  • Number of pages: 320
  • Weight: 540g
  • Dimensions: 240 x 159 x 38 mm

Customer Reviews

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The Walnut Tree
An easy and delightful read of hard and sad times
Reading The Walnut Tree feels oh-so familiar; a distance past that isn't so distant at all. It is familiar yet not. You'll come away from reading this feel... READ MORE
Ginger R