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Bigamy : neither love nor marriage, but a threat to the nation?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date05/1999
JournalThe Sociological Review
Number of pages13
Original languageEnglish


In a computer search of 18 national newspapers over a three-year period (1993–1945) 420 mentions of bigamy were identified. 110 items (or 26 per cent) referred to 26 current criminal cases involving bigamy. Seven cases attracted 70 per cent of the coverage. The comments of the presiding judge were widely reported in five of these cases together with titillating detail. Two other cases included comments by judges. Using Phoenix's (1996) distinction between threats to the nation-state from 'inside' and 'outside', the analysis indicates that two issues of wider socio-political importance – familism and immigration – were central to the judges' comments reported in the press and produced an important counterpoise to the titillating features of these cases. It is argued that the newspaper reporting of bigamy constructs bigamists as being a threat to Britain from 'inside' to the institution of marriage, while the threat from 'outside' is from minority ethnic men marrying female bigamists to gain residential status in Britain. It is the latter challenge which brings the most significant condemnation.