Wife Selling: How the Britons Used to Get Divorced

Suppose you are an 18th-century farmer, and your wife and you just cannot get along, what would you do? Divorce her? That’s too expensive. Kill her? That’s not possible. Oh, OK, then sell her off. Welcome to the astonishing world of “wife selling”!

This article is for intermediate Chinese readers. It covers many vocabularies about "trading" and "history".


假设你是一个18世纪的英国农民,你和妻子再也无法相处下去了,你会怎么做?跟她离婚?太贵了。杀了她?不可能。噢,好吧,那把她卖掉吧。欢迎来到奇异的「卖妻」世界!


在十八世纪的英国有一种卖老婆的行为,很多人会觉得很诧异,不过其实她们都是自愿的。当时因为离婚成本太高,于是男人流行把老婆卖掉。


最早的卖妻行为发生在伯明翰(Birmingham),一位叫塞缪尔(Samuel)的男子把妻子以一镑的价格卖掉了。买家也需要接受妻子的所有缺点,出售以后不能退还。


接下来卖妻行为也有很多方式。有一位丈夫竟然把妻子以一便士起拍卖。到后来用啤酒也能换老婆了。


而在卖妻过程中还有一个仪式,丈夫先在妻子脖子上拴上缰绳,就像卖牛羊一样,然后带她去拍卖行。


很多人以为妻子是被迫的,但其实妻子都是心甘情愿的。甚至有丈夫后悔以后,妻子还不愿意回来。


真实的原因是在英国离婚手续比较复杂,而且费用非常贵,所以卖妻也算是一种离婚方式。


很多时候,丈夫都是象征性地收点钱。在交易完成以后丈夫还会去酒馆请大家喝酒。



假設你是一個18世紀的英國農民,你和妻子再也無法相處下去了,你會怎麼做?跟她離婚?太貴了。殺了她?不可能。噢,好吧,那把她賣掉吧。歡迎來到奇異的「賣妻」世界!


在十八世紀的英國有一種賣老婆的行為,很多人會覺得很詫異,不過其實她們都是自願的。當時因為離婚成本太高,於是男人流行把老婆賣掉。


最早的賣妻行為發生在伯明翰(Birmingham),一位叫塞繆爾(Samuel)的男子把妻子以一鎊的價格賣掉了。買家也需要接受妻子的所有缺點,出售以後不能退還。


接下來賣妻行為也有很多方式。有一位丈夫竟然把妻子以一便士起拍賣。到後來用啤酒也能換老婆了。


而在賣妻過程中還有一個儀式,丈夫先在妻子脖子上拴上韁繩,就像賣牛羊一樣,然後帶她去拍賣行。


很多人以為妻子是被迫的,但其實妻子都是心甘情願的。甚至有丈夫後悔以後,妻子還不願意回來。


真實的原因是在英國離婚手續比較複雜,而且費用非常貴,所以賣妻也算是一種離婚方式。


很多時候,丈夫都是象徵性地收點錢。在交易完成以後丈夫還會去酒館請大家喝酒。



English translation:

Suppose you are an 18th-century farmer, and your wife and you just cannot get along, what would you do? Divorce her? That’s too expensive. Kill her? That’s not possible. Oh, OK, then sell her off. Welcome to the astonishing world of “wife selling”!

In the 18th century United Kingdom, there was a type of wife-selling activity, many people might consider it flabbergasting, but it was all voluntary. At that time, the costs for divorce were too high, as a result, men commonly sold off their wives.

The first wife-selling activity took place in Birmingham, a man named Samuel sold off his wife for the price of one pound. The buyer also has to accept all the shortcomings of the wife, once sold, there is no possibility to return her.

In the time following, there were many ways to sell your wife. There was this husband who actually auctioned off his wife, starting at one penny. Later it was possible to change the wife for beer.

And in the procedure of wife-selling, there was a ceremony; the husband would first tie reins around his wife’s neck, and then bring her to the auction site, as if selling cattle. Many people think that the wives were forced, but they were actually happy to do this. To the extent that if there was a husband who regrets it afterward, the wife would not be willing to go back to him.

The true reason was that in the United Kingdom, the divorce procedure was rather complicated, and the costs were also very high, so wife-selling was considered a type of divorce.

The husbands often received a symbolic amount of money. After the business deal was completed, the husband would go to a pub and invite everyone for a drink.


The article is rewritten from here to suit the level of readers. The photo is taken from here.  

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